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SEARCY, Ark. (KTHV) -- The 1,600-member College Church of Christ won't be able to meet in its auditorium for at least three months due to fire damage, minister Noel Whitlock said.

Whitlock said an electrical short occurred in a baptistery heater shortly after 11 p.m. Jan. 19. He noted that the heater had been replaced in recent years.

"We're either going to have to replace our baptistery or change our doctrine," the minister joked.

Flames were contained mostly to a small area with a lot of plaster and concrete, Whitlock said. However, the entire building, which is about 62 years old, sustained extensive smoke damage.

Firefighters spent hours at the scene. Students who noticed smoke coming from the building notified the fire department about the same time as the church's automatic smoke alarm alerted authorities.

The church may be able to resume using its Sunday school classrooms within a few weeks, but the congregation will worship in Benson Auditorium - on the Harding University campus across the street - for at least three months, Whitlock said.

"We're blessed that we have Harding University and the big Benson Auditorium nearby," Whitlock said.

Damages are insured, but the church does not have an estimate yet on what it will cost to make repairs.

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