Churches from around the state are mobilizing to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of a North Carolina pastor whose wife died in a Christmas Eve fire.
“People are rallying around this family and this church,” said Larry Hovis, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.
Ed Beddingfield, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Buies Creek, N.C., suffered minor burns in the Christmas Eve fire that took his wife, Sarah, 68, CBFNC said in a Christmas morning Facebook post.
One of the couple’s two adult daughters, Shannon, suffered burns and smoke inhalation and has been transported to an intensive care burn unit in Chapel Hill. The Fayetteville Observer has reported that she is in good condition at the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals.
The couple’s other daughter, Meghan, suffered minor burns in the 10:30 p.m. incident but, like her father, did not require hospitalization, according to the newspaper report. Both are staying temporarily in a furnished home owned by Campbell University, said Derek Hogan, chairman of deacons at Memorial Baptist.
Offers of prayer and other forms of help began pouring into the church immediately after the fire, and have continued steadily from congregations and other organizations located nearby and around North Carolina.
The Little River Baptist Association has been communicating with member churches in the region about providing financial assistance.
CBFNC stands ready to coordinate Fellowship’s response at the request of Memorial Baptist, according to Hovis.
Beddingfield was pastor of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville from 2001-2015. Prior to that he served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylva, Warrenton Baptist Church in Warrenton, and Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
“All these churches are reaching out as well,” Hogan said.
Sarah Beddingfield was a retired public school teacher and more recently worked part-time at the Harentt County Public Library in Lillington.
Memorial members responded immediately by gathering linens, toiletries and clothes for Beddingfield and his daugher when they moved into the university-owned home.
Church members were alerted about the fire in an email from deacons.
The message reminded them that Ed Beddingfield led a Christmas Eve candlelight service that was attended by his wife and adult daughters. The preacher assured the congregation of God’s presence even in times of darkness.
“Later that evening, that darkness visited our pastor and our congregation as Ed’s sweet wife, Sarah, died in a fire at their home,” the deacons said.
In the days since, church members have struggled through the pain of death and injury that struck the family of their pastor. Sarah Beddingfield’s participation in the choir and as a Sunday school teacher brought her close to many.
Much of that suffering has been expressed through social media.
“While all of us are celebrating today, one family in our community has experienced horrible tragedy,” a former Memorial Baptist member said in a Facebook post. “Let’s cover this family in our prayers and bind together as a community to help them through this terrible tragedy.”
Hovis said the devastation is being felt statewide.
“People are devastated as the news has spread in the community and beyond,” Hovis said. “People are shocked. They are grieved. They are saddened.”
In response, CareNet, a counseling network and CBFNC partner, is offering counseling sessions to church and other community members Friday and Sunday, Hovis said.
Those interested in giving may send donations to the Memorial Baptist Church Emergency Relief Fund, P.O. Box 485 Buies Creek, NC, 27506.
Donors may also give online through a Go Fund Me account established for the family.
WRAL-TV reported the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but is believed to be an accident.