As Alice Young stood outside the still smoldering remains of Shiloh Baptist Church Tuesday afternoon, she said what she and the congregation was feeling was akin to “losing a family member.”
On Saturday, at approximately 6:14 p.m., a call came in for an industrial fire at Shiloh Baptist Church in Brandy Station.
By the time Brandy Station Volunteer Fire Department made it on the scene, flames were already showing through the roof of the 122-year-old church.
More than 45 volunteer firefighters from 13 companies battled the blaze until late Saturday, but the church was a total loss.
Now, church, community and business members are working to rebuild the historic church.
Through Tuesday, business leaders have raised $34,500 through contributions from Scott Found of Found & Sons Funeral Home, the Rosson & Troilo family, Steve and Rachel Corbin, K & M Equipment Rentals, Gary and Melissa Deal, The Ole Country Store, Hometech Construction, Michelle Daly, Certified Massage Therapist, Sneaker Thrift and Deli-icious.
Young, the Shiloh Baptist Financial Director, said it’s overwhelming the response from the community.
“It’s been an outpouring of support and love,” Young said. “Sunday after church we all just gathered here, it was unplanned and we were here for hours. People were stopping by and giving us their condolences. It means a lot, this is just like your second home.”
Estelle Lewis, a longtime member of the congregation and unofficial historian, said the church was established in 1897 and that generations of families have contributed to the Brandy Station and Culpeper communities.
She was heartbroken when she got the word Saturday that the church was on fire.
“When I saw it, it was like ‘this is not happening,” Lewis said. “We were devastated. I joined this church when I was 15. It’s overwhelming. We’ve done so much in this church.”
The church is home to a food closet and clothes closet, both of which survived the fire. They host a soup day every third Sunday, and have hosted dinners for homeless people.
Now the congregation of 60 to 80 regulars is homeless themselves.
They’ve had offers from many churches and businesses - Found and Sons, the 7th Day Adventist Church in Brandy Station and Mt. Olive Baptist Church - to host their congregation.
Tony Troilo has been friends with many members of the congregation for years, it’s why it was important to him and his family to support their efforts to rebuild.
“It’s a community, it’s all of us in this community,” Troilo said.
Just hours after the fire started, Found started a Go Fund Me page for the Shiloh Baptist Rebuild Project and the business leaders quickly answered the call.
“As a funeral director, we have a special relationship with the church and the congregation,” he said. “I was inclined to help out and I think that’s what I had to do. I hate to lose a piece of history and hopefully this will help with the transitition.”
“Scott had reached out that night to have the service in the sanctuary of the funeral home,” Troilo said. “I know what our family is going to do, we’re going to stand behind this and drive it and get them a place back up and a place to worship.”
Young and Lewis said the church plans to rebuild, either on the current property or on an acre and a half the church owns just adjacent to where it now sits.
“I don’t want to leave this spot in a sense, but if it’s right over there it’s still close by,” Lewis said.
Caitlin Troilo teared up about seeing the blaze. She was one of the first responders and was injured battling the fire.
“I called my Dad to tell him the church was on fire since he was out of town, while I was on the way to the station,” she said. “That was just my first thought to him. I got hurt and couldn’t do anything after, I wanted the medics to just wrap me up and keep going, we had a job to do.”
Members of the congregation haven’t been cleared to sort through the rubble yet - as it was still smoldering Tuesday. They have yet to locate the church bell and they don’t know what else may have survived - though at first place it doesn’t appear much was left unscathed.
“We had the most gorgeous stained glass windows,” Lewis said. “The pews were donated by the church members, everything is lost...everything.”
While heartbroken, Young said the congregation is strong in their faith.
“It’s realizing God is still in control,” Young said. “We do mourn, but we do realize the church is inside us as well. It didn’t just stay inside those walls, we had outreach to the community. We understand that, it’s just a simple fact that this has been a staple in the community.”
If your business would like to contribute to the rebuilding of Shiloh Baptist Church, please contact Found at 540-229-2341 or Pep Troilo at 540-229-2127. Community members can drop off checks care of Shiloh Baptist Church Rebuild Project to Atlantic Union (Main Street location), Rosson & Troilo, Found and Sons or the Ole Country Store.