Church damaged by arson dedicates restored building, sanctuary

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A historic Dickson church damaged by an arson fire last May celebrated the dedication of a restored sanctuary, fellowship hall and kitchen Saturday morning.

New Hope Missionary Baptist Church pastor, the Rev. Matt Lester, said the fire affected the church's educational building back on May 16, 2012.

The kitchen and dining hall were destroyed, and the sanctuary - which is more than 100 years old - suffered damage from the heat and smoke.

Lester said the church is ready to move on after the fire, which started on the kitchen stove in the educational building.

Renovations took about four months to complete.

"People stuck together and labored together and were faithful together," said Lester. "Today is a day that marks the end."

Police arrested Carlos D. Carr, 36, of Dickson in the case. Carr plead guilty to the arson fire and was sentenced to six years behind bars. Church members said he attended New Hope on occasion.

"He asked for the church to forgive him and to pray for him," said Lester. "I brought it back to the church, and we've prayed for him. We've forgiven him, and he's forgiven. It's over."

Having time to heal, Lester said his church is as strong as its been in a 120-year history.

"The scars are not as painful," said Lester. "They're OK. They're OK now."

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