After Overbrook church fire, parishioners look to the future, plan to rebuild

Community gathers after church fire in Philadelphia's Overbrook neighborhood

PHILADEPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia community came together Sunday to hold a vigil after a devastating fire damaged an Overbrook church.

Parishioners walked the perimeter of Overbrook Presbyterian Church in frigid temperatures to get a closer look at the damage left behind from Monday night's fire.

"I'm extremely moved by how many people have showed up here and how many people love this place and want to see it succeed," Pastor Adam Hearlson said.

While snow fell that night, John Cochrane was one of the first to notice smoke, leading him to call 911. 

"I unlocked the door, and the smoke came directly onto our faces at that point," Cochrane said. "I'm just grateful we were here and the ability to save our home."

Hearlson said the flames started inside the sanctuary where the choir sits. The fire happened just hours after parishioners placed T-shirts around the building symbolizing lives lost to gunfire.

Sabrina Johnson and her daughter were there volunteering for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"Later in the evening we heard of the tragedy that happened to our second home," Johnson said.

While cleanup and restoration efforts have started, photos show the devastation inside: burnt chairs, damage to the organ and a charred Bible. 

"It was heartbreaking, and it was really sad in part because there were so many memories, and this place is such an important place of meaning for so many," Pearlson said.

Overbrook Presbyterian members gather at a nearby church. CBS News Philadelphia

Church leaders are making new memories. For now, services will be held at a church in Wynnewood while the community hopes to gather inside their own church once again.

The fire marshal's office is investigating the cause of the fire.

"We all understand what it felt like to lose something a part of us and we know we will be better," Johnson said. "We will rebuild."

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