The Duncan Banner

February 21, 2013

Area residents cope with the loss of their church

Derrick Miller
The Duncan Banner


The church at Fifth and Pine may be gone, but the memories will last for the Spradling siblings.
Sue Spradling Sims, Harold Spradling and their siblings grew up in and around the church that was destroyed Monday by fire. The first structure of the church was built in 1927 by their grandfather William Love Fortenberry.
They attended the church, when it was First Assembly of God. They were involved in the youth group. And all the siblings married there.
“There was a lot of history, a lot of memories,” Sims said. “We grew up in that church.”
As the siblings grew up, they lived within walking distance of the church, which began as a frame building. Throughout the years, people came and added to the building, whether adding brick to the exterior or adding additional space.
The main growth of the building occurred in the late 1950s. The original front door was kept, even through additional construction. There was even a small area in back where the siblings’ grandparents lived; this area was later converted into classrooms.
Spradling said the church was originally built in its location to be close the railroad tracks and to serve the needs of eastern Duncan. The congregation started out small but later went on to serve almost 600 people at one time.
“The growth was faster than the funds could come in,” Spradling said.
The siblings described the building as a part of Duncan’s history and a landmark for the city. Throughout the years, the church changed from First Assembly of God to Cornerstone Assembly to God to most recently Foursquare Gospel Church. Foursquare Gospel had its last service Feb. 3, before moving to its new location on Willow.
Foursquare Gospel moved out of the church because the small congregation didn’t need the large building. The building was too expensive for the current congregation.
Haylee Crowell, Foursquare Gospel member, said the church at Fifth and Pine will also hold an important sentiment to her.
“The church meant the world to me,” Crowell said. “I started going there when I was 16. I’m 22 now.
“That’s where I was baptized. That’s where I had my baby shower. When it burned down, I cried.”
While Crowell didn’t live in Duncan the entire time since her baptism, she described the church as being her “home.”
No one was physically injured in the fire. But for Crowell, Sims and Spradling, there’s something left missing, a piece of their hearts that won’t mend.
“It tugs at your heart when you see something like that in person,” Spradling said. “What I can’t express is the emotion in our hearts.”
For Sims and Spradling, the church was all about family.
Their mother, Junia Spradling, was a minister in the church. Harold Spradling said several of the Spradling siblings went on to become ministers, starting churches in other areas and communities. He said the love of their church helped drive them to come to the aid of others.
Junia Spradling died a few months ago at nearly 96 years old. She died July 22, 2012, according to Banner obituary records. Junia’s father was Fortenberry, who established the First Assembly of God Church at that location. Junia was 15 when she began her ministry. 
“I’m glad she didn’t get to see this happen,” Sims said. “It would have been really sad for her. It hurts me. I’m so shocked.
“I thought there would be some walls left. There’s one wall left. There’s no rebuilding it.”