NANTY GLO, Pa. - For the last 15 years, Geno Bartoletti and his wife have designed and created their own Christmas cards, usually depicting something that sums up the year - a new grandchild, a special trip, an important event.
This year, the choice was easy. On Nov. 8, fire destroyed Nanty Glo First Baptist Church, where Bartoletti is pastor.
The 102-year legacy of the church is what Bartoletti said inspired his pen-and-ink drawing for this year's Christmas card, which shows the church as it appeared in 1948 for its 35th anniversary.
Although the church members in this tiny borough in central Pennsylvania's Cambria County plan to rebuild on the same site, Bartoletti said there's still a feeling of disappointment when the congregation sees the rubble that remains. But on the back of the card is a reminder: "The church was not defeated and looks forward to rising from the ashes."
Since the fire, Nanty Glo First Baptist has been holding combined services with Laurel Mountain Bible Church, three miles down the road.
"It's been going extremely well," Bartoletti said. "The cooperation has been wonderful. We have a great crowd coming each Sunday."
A state police fire marshal said the blaze started on the first floor of the church, but because of extensive damage, an exact cause could not be determined.
Nevertheless, firefighters were able to recover a few items - including Bartoletti's favorite Bible, a handful of stained-glass windows, and another piece of stained glass above the entrance to the building that reads "First Baptist Church."