Fire destroys buildings of Trinity UMC in Nutbush community near Brownsville, Tenn.


Top photo by Dr. John Bonson shows aftermath of overnight fire at Trinity UMC in the Nutbush community of Haywood County. Bottom photo shows what the church looked like before it burned.

taken during and immediately after the fire.

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: Scroll to bottom of this page.

BENEFIT CONCERT for Trinity UMC will take place
on Saturday, March 28, at 7 p.m. at Ripley First UMC
in Ripley, TN. Click here for more information.

Jan. 7, 2015

By Lane Gardner Camp, Director of Communications, Memphis Conference

One week into the new year, fire has completely destroyed the sanctuary, Sunday School rooms and fellowship hall of Trinity UMC in the Nutbush community of Haywood County.

The church’s pastor, Dr. John Bonson, who lives in Jackson, Tenn., received a call at 4 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, that the church was on fire, at which time he rushed to the scene to join members of the congregation who had gathered to watch area firefighters battle flames.

The church of 65-70 members has worship attendance on Sundays of 30 to 40, said Bonson.


The church at 5659 Nunn Road south of Tennessee Highway 19 (also known as Tina Turner Highway) was “fully engulfed” in fire when Bonson arrived.

As dawn broke, it was clear from smoldering remains that little remained of the structures that included the main sanctuary with Sunday School rooms and a separate fellowship hall.

“The buildings were destroyed, but the church was not” said Bonson around noon Wednesday. “We will rebuild and be part of the community and show Christ to the community.”

At press time, the cause of the fire was not known and is being investigated by officials, he said. The church property was insured.

“Crushed” was how Bonson depicted members of the congregation as they reacted to the fire and realized their loss.

Bonson said the fire also extended, probably due to wind, about 50 yards into the church’s adjoining cemetery and burned the grass. A separate "belltower" on the property was not burned.

Bonson posted on his Facebook page Wednesday, "The bell still works. God is not finished with Trinity."


Situated in northwest Haywood County, halfway between Brownsville and Ripley, Tenn., Trinity UMC was first organized in 1822 as a camp meeting, according to historical information supplied by Ann Phillips, historian and archivist for the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church that includes West Tennessee and Western Kentucky.

Phillips’ information says the church moved to its present location and changed its name in the mid-1800s. Previously, it was located one mile south and “known as Buckhorn Church because deer horns served as hat racks.”

In 1859, the church’s cemetery was officially established, even though the oldest marker is reported to be dated 1837.

In 1922, part of the sanctuary was torn down and remaining walls were bricked over.


At press time, an alternative Sunday worship location has not been announced

Despite its loss, the church will continue its ministry to help supply materials for Disciple Bible study at West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, Tenn., approximately 15 miles away. Bonson leads the study with inmates on the congregation’s behalf.

Any church or individual that would like to help Trinity UMC with emergency operating funds or other needs may contact the office of the Brownsville District (where the church is located) at 731-772-9882 or mail financial gifts (marked “rebuilding of Trinity UMC”) to the following address:

Trinity UMC
c/o Joan Parks, Treasurer
10871 Highway 19 West
Brownsville, TN 38012
Bonson, who also pastors St. Paul UMC in Ripley, may be contacted at 731-697-9937 or

WBBJ-TV: Bishop visits destroyed church for special service (3-1-15)
Jackson Sun: Church fires ruled arson (2-20-15)
Jackson Sun: Congregation grieving, but not defeated by fire (1-11-15)
WBBJ-TV: Fire destroys church, congregation plans to rebuild (1-11-15)
Jackson Sun: VIDEO- ATF investigates Trinity United Methodist fire (1-10-15)
Jackson Sun: Investigation of church fires continues (1-10-15)
WBBJ-TV: ATF investigates three church fires on the same morning (1-8-15)
Jackson Sun: Historic Nutbush church destroyed by fire (1-8-15)
Coverage of dedication on 8-15-15: click here