The small L-shaped church next to the Orange police station had dead fish in the front yard and other reminders of Hurricane Ike as rebuilding efforts began. 

It took almost a year, and after many hours of volunteer work and donations – 10:30 a.m. Sunday services have returned to Orange’s First Church of God, 911 Main Ave. 

The congregation of about 25-30 members met in the library of Family Worship Center (the old Bancroft Elementary School) from Sept. 28, 2008, to July 19.

“We’re grateful to their congregation,” says First Church of God’s Pastor Sid Thorne. “I don’t know what we would have done without them.

“Everything was damaged with the exception of some drums, but we lost a piano, sound equipment, hymnals, Bibles and Sunday school curriculums. We had between three and four feet of water that went throughout the church and over several tables.”

Also lost were several rows of pews, Thorne says.

“We plan some kind of celebration in the future. We’re having services in the fellowship hall. The sanctuary and Sunday school rooms are still not carpeted yet. We hope in the future we’ll be able to resume more regular activities.”

A history book of the church and was damaged as well, and a small gift shop area is still being repaired.

“One church in Bossier City gave $5,000, and two in New Orleans gave $5,000 each,” Thorne says. “We’ve also received donations from relatives of church members, so of course the Lord has blessed us.”

Another church donated 75 folding chairs.

Although a large history scrapbook was damaged, smaller, mimeographed copies of a similar version have lived on in members’ homes of the church that began in 1944.

It was compiled from notes of Fay Carey by her daughter and charter member, Lorene Camp, who still attends services. Fay Carey passed away in 1995. Ray Camp married Lorene Carey after he joined the church, fresh out of the service.

The original congregation met in a two story building on Border Street, says Thorne. 

“The lower part of the building was the Border Furniture Store,” he says. “The upper story belonged to the Woodmen of the World Lodge. The first pastor was Rev. J.B. Ward, whose wife’s name was Alethia. On Sunday night, they held services at the (county) courthouse. In July, 1958 the church moved to its current location. Under the leadership of Pastor Arnold Ethridge, a new church was built. A ground-breaking service took place on Jan. 2, 1970.

Building for the new church began on July 20, 1970. The building was completed on Nov. 20, 1970. The first service took place Feb. 24, 1971.”

Thorne has been pastor since 1996. Former pastors have included Homer Beckett, Carter Strickland, Leo Hardesty and Dale Johnson.

Strickland drove all the way from Hemphill to lead services starting in 1947.

For more information on services or other activities, call Thorne at 883-6802.