Burned by arsonists, Athens church celebrates new worship space, offices

ATHENS—In the early morning of Jan. 12, 2010, Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, about 65 miles southeast of Dallas, was one of two churches in that town to burn by the hand of arsonists. The week before that, another church near Athens was torched.

Twenty months later, Lake Athens has new offices, a new auditorium and new education space, all rebuilt on the old slabs.

It is debt free, thanks to insurance, faithful giving of church members, and volunteer builders from numerous churches, Pastor John Green said.

Church attendance is up after Lake Athens held its first services in the new digs on Labor Day weekend. After the fire, the church met in the gym, which survived the fire.

“Our children’s department has grown 400 percent in the last six months. The Lord’s just opened doors,” Green said.

On Sept. 25, Lake Athens was scheduled to hold dedication services and an open house. A dedication theme of “To God Be the Glory” was chosen.

“We are expecting 300-400 people for our dedication service,” Green said on Sept. 21. “We want to dedicate this as a house of worship and prayer to God.”

On Jan. 10 of this year, the arsonists—Jason Robert Bourque, 20, of Lindale, and Daniel George McAllister, 22, of Ben Wheeler—were given life sentences and additional 20-year sentences after pleading guilty in connection with 10 church arsons in early 2010.

Four of the burned churches were Southern Baptist: Lake Athens Baptist Church, Little Hope Baptist Church in Canton, Tyland Baptist Church in Tyler and Dover Baptist Church in rural Smith County.

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