First Presbyterian Church and the 1904 Yazoo City Fire

FPC - Yazoo -


Nettie Clark Byrd passed  along this picture of our church after the 1904 fire. The conflagration left most of Yazoo City in ruins, including this structure at the southwest corner of Main and Broadway. A new church building, our current meeting place, was erected in 1905 on the corner of North Washington Street and Powell.

Three thoughts come to mind when I see this picture:

1. All buildings are impermanent. No matter how grand, the time will come when they succumb to natural disaster, man-made destruction, or decay. Our church, devastated by fire, reminds me that we are God’s pilgrim people, citizens of heaven, living outside the heavenly city “that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Our permanent home belongs to the age to come.

2. Although church buildings are not permanent, they are not unimportant. Our burned-out church was once a precious gathering place. However temporary, it was a home for our church family.

Home too is our current church building. On Sunday mornings, I see multiple generations of Christians seated in front of me in a place that holds many memories. There have been times of conviction of sin, spiritual awakening and deep repentance; sermons that nourished the soul; the joy of baptisms and marriages; comfort for the grieving; and countless thousands of words spoken among cherished friends. While not our permanent home, it is an outpost God has given us until we reach our final home.

3. The 1904 fire that destroyed our church destroyed our city. Christians are not exempt from any of the tragedies of a fallen world. They share in the sufferings common to humanity.

At another time and in a very different set of circumstances, God instructed his people to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). Whatever the dissimilarities between ancient Israel’s experience and ours, the principle remains that same: The Sovereign Lord sends his people where he will. And he has sent each of us to Yazoo City. In no small way, our welfare is bound up in the lives of its citizens and leaders. For this reason and many others, we must pray for our city and work for its welfare.

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