Eighteen months after fire heavily damaged historic Mount Pisgah A.M.E. Church in Haddonfield, church leaders and local officials broke ground on a new sanctuary this morning.

"This is a day that has long been anticipated," said Bishop Richard Franklin Norris at the ceremony.

"I am looking forward to thrusting this shovel into mother earth," he continued.

In June 2006, a three-alarm blaze began in the roof of what was one of the area's first African American places of worship. Fire quickly engulfed much of the 126-year-old structure.

Damage was so severe that church officials had no choice but to raze the building. What little was salvaged included the church's steeple, communion Bible and communion cross.