Church Communities Come Together

Ruckersville Baptist Church on the morning arsonists set fire to the sanctuary on Aug. 22.

It’s inspiring to witness first-hand how positivity evolves from tragedy.

On Aug. 22, arsonists set fire to Ruckersville Baptist Church. The church’s sanctuary was more or less destroyed, and the quick work of firefighters saved the rest of the building. But the damage is still extensive, and rebuilding has yet to begin.

I covered the initial story and had the opportunity to follow through this past weekend. I didn’t know beforehand what a privilege it would be.

The pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Madison (about an hour north of Charlottesville), Rev. Alan Follett, invited members of Ruckersville Baptist Church to his own. Ruckersville’s pastor, Rev. Kyle Clements, would speak at the church’s homecoming.

I was immediately welcomed upon arriving at the church, which I was lucky to find. Google Maps didn’t know where it was, so I headed in the general direction of Mt. Zion, hoping I would find it. I arrived to see a handful of workers setting up tables for an early dinner that would follow the service.

Mt. Zion members were excited to welcome Ruckersville members, who have been displaced by the fire. They’ve been worshipping in their fellowship hall and other spaces since the fire.

I spoke with Rev. Clements again. Church members are lucky to have this man as a pastor. He’s been a strong, level-headed leader throughout this ordeal, and he continues to exude positivity as the congregation moves forward. The church has seen an outpouring of support since the fire, which has helped the healing process.

In his sermon, Rev. Clements said that church isn’t a denomination, but rather a community. This was echoed by Mt. Zion members whom I spoke with. It was incredibly inspiring to see the two communities come together as one. A bus filled with Ruckersville church members pulled off, and I recognized some of them from that August day. They’re still supporting their church, even if they don’t have their building.

The service was powerful, and Revs. Clements and Follett are moving, engaging speakers. These are two lucky congregations.

I received a phone call from Rev. Clements yesterday to thank me for the coverage of the service. He told me I conveyed what he felt in his heart. To me, there is no bigger compliment. I look forward to following the story of Ruckersville Baptist Church.

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AS I WAS setting up my camera inside a church, a woman from Mt. Zion began chatting with me. She came up to me earlier in the day to give me a program and a bookmark, which read, “Welcome, friend. We are blessed you are here today.”

“You were at the Madison football game, weren’t you?” she asked me as I was setting up. I admitted that I was. On Friday, I shot the Luray vs. Madison high school football game for the weekly Friday Night Endzone show on ABC16. With the number of turnovers (mostly from Luray), those teams had me running along the sidelines all night long.

“Yeah, I saw you running around down there. I have to brag a little. My grandson’s the quarterback. In fact, he’s sitting right over there,” she said, pointing him out to me.

We discussed what a good game he had, as Madison went on to win, 55-14. Her grandson made my final edits and got on TV for a few a few of his good plays. He had many.

I’m realizing more and more how much CBS19 has an impact on the community. From covering the aftermath of a church arson to a high school football game, people rely on us. It’s an honor to help out.

Seven Stories in 14 Hours

As happens in smaller markets, people leave. At times, many people leave at once.

A side effect of this is temporarily being short staffed. Such was the case on Saturday, in which I obtained video for seven separate events. Fourteen hours later, I was ready for bed.

The day started with an emotional tribute to those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. People gathered outside the Albemarle County Office Building at 8:30 a.m. It was a very musical event, as you can hear below.

Following the memorial was the 2010 Memory Walk for the local Alzheimer’s Association, then the Midtown Festival, then the 2010 Beer Fest. When I finally think there’s time to rest, there’s a gun found outside an elementary school. As I head to shoot exteriors of the school, I find the road is closed. Turns out the house directly across from the school is on fire. So I got two birds with one stone.

The good news here — no one was injured in either incident.

I get back to the station with 20 minutes before the anticipated start of the 6 p.m. newscast. At 6:30, I leave to cover my final event of the day — a 7 p.m. black tie affair for the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at the University of Virginia. When I return back to the station after the event, I learn the 6 p.m. show never happened, thanks to the U.S. Open.

While I had no lunch break and got to bed immediately after returning home, it’s days like this why I love what I do. You never know what’s coming up next.

Every Step Counts at C’ville Women’s Four Miler

Seconds before the start of the Charlottesville Women's Four Miler.

Every step counts.

Today, I had the privilege of covering the Charlottesville Women’s Four Miler. It’s an annual race in Albemarle County, where at least 3,500 women participate. No men allowed (except on the sidelines).

The amount of spirit and encouragement that the crowd exuded today was immeasurable. Even though it’s labeled a “race,” the women could run, jog or trot the length of the four-mile trek.

I spoke to a number of people at the event randomly. Two of the five people I chose were breast cancer survivors. Sure, my odds of finding more survivors at an event like this are increased, but it showed how so many people are directly affected by cancer. And the spirits of everyone I met couldn’t be higher.

Coworkers have told me what a great event the Four Miler is, and they were absolutely correct. It’s a great day for the community to come together. As one survivor told me, she doesn’t want to cure breast cancer. She wants to finish it.

The $200,000+ raised so far only makes that more possible.