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JAMAICA PLAIN

'Not going anywhere,' church will move about some

More than a week after an inferno roared through the First Baptist Church -- destroying a prized pipe organ, charring the sanctuary, and leaving a rickety shell for a roof -- congregants are readying to meet in borrowed pews.

The first service since the Jan. 18 fire was originally planned for last weekend at First Church in Jamaica Plain but was canceled because of the blizzard. ''We didn't want people risking life and limb to come show their support for the church," said pastor Ashlee Wiest-Laird.

The service was rescheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Unitarian church, at South and Eliot streets. Wiest-Laird said many churches offered space, and neighbors immediately began collecting donations after the fire, which officials say began accidentally in the church's basement. Her congregation has a history of sharing space with the Unitarians, whose church is home to an E. & G.G. Hook pipe organ similar to the 1859 instrument lost in the fire.

Amazingly, bronze plaques were saved, and First Baptist's Book of Remembrance was preserved in a flash freeze; firefighters shot water into the flames for hours in frigid temperatures.

Wiest-Laird said much remains unknown -- the cost of rebuilding, how long repairs will take, what else might be salvageable under the frozen ash.

''We've made no decisions at all," she said. ''Except that we're not going anywhere."

The fledgling Pierre Angulaire Baptist Church, which met at First Baptist, has also found a temporary home in the Curtis Hall Community Center, across the street from the Unitarian church. The church's 20 Haitian members, who speak English, French, and Creole, will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 10:30 a.m. Sundays, pastor Daniel Auguste said. He's glad his flock will worship close to its sister congregation, said the pastor, who lost treasured musical equipment and ceremonial robes in the fire.

''I want to stay in J.P.," he said. ''The people are such good people."

Building donations can be mailed to First Baptist Church, 633 Centre St., Jamaica Plain 02130. For more information, go to www.firstbaptistjp.org.

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