Fire damages Mississippi church where Faulkner was married

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi church where William Faulkner was married nearly a century ago has been heavily damaged in a fire.

College Hill Presbyterian Church, northwest of Oxford, caught fire Saturday night and burned more than three hours, the Oxford Eagle reported.

The congregation was founded in 1835, and the church was built in 1844. Faulkner and his wife, Estelle, married there in 1929 — two decades before the novelist received the Nobel Prize in literature.

The pulpit and most of church's red-brick exterior and white columns survived the fire, but the original stained-glass windows and pews were destroyed. A firefighter retrieved a Bible from the pulpit.

“So many pastors from the 1800s had written into that Bible and preached from that Bible,” said Casey Rodgers, a church elder. “There’s a lot of history that was lost, so we’re thankful that it was able to be saved.”

Lafayette County County Fire Chief Wes Anderson said authorities are investigating what caused the fire. The church will continue to hold worship services in the fellowship hall next to the main building.

The church's nursery coordinator, Debra Patterson, said people will sometimes sit inside or outside building, even when services are not happening.

“The doors are never locked, so you can always just come in and pray," Patterson said. "It truly is a sanctuary.”