Pastor Ashlee Wiest-Laird recalls seeing the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain engulfed in flames on a cold, icy January night five years ago. She remembers making heartbreaking calls to members, and neighbors handing her a coat as she stood outside in shock.


But after a long, determined effort, the rebuilding campaign reaches a major milestone this weekend when the congregation returns to the church after spending the last four years holding services in a trailer on the same grounds along with two other faith groups.


“It took a lot of faith to make this happen,” Wiest-Laird told Metro yesterday.


The church will host a celebration on Sunday starting at 3 p.m. to welcome the community back through its doors on Centre Street. The fire, on Jan. 18, 2005, ripped through the 150-year-old church and caused extensive damage.


Organizers raised $1.3 million to help restore the exterior and rebuild the first floor, though they still need another $300,000 to finish that work. Then it will likely take another

$2 million to complete rebuilding the church’s second floor, where the original worship area was located. Though much work remains, Wiest-Laird said finally returning to the church is a blessing.

Church sprouts up from its ashes“People are really excited and energized,” she said.