Church begins healing process
Rob Claggett’s cordial manner belied the frustration and sadness he felt after spending most of the day with insurance adjusters viewing the damage to the Eudora United Methodist Church.
As he stood upon the front steps of the building, he squinted at the setting sun and reflected upon how several years of work was wiped away in just a few hours.
“The process of fundraising and dreaming has been going on for decades,” said Claggett, who is the chairman of the Eudora United Methodist Church’s Board of Trustees. “Something like this happens — and it doesn’t happen very often to us — and we have a lot more questions than we have answers.”
The fire started during the afternoon of Nov. 24 in the sanctuary of the church and caused extensive smoke damage. No one was injured.
Although the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office will classify the cause as unknown, the preliminary cause is believed to be a candle that was not properly extinguished during a conference held the evening of Nov. 23.
The church opened in February, and many of the estimated 220 church members contributed to construction. The sanctuary will need to be completely rebuilt and though classrooms, offices and the fellowship hall were not damaged, they will need to be cleaned thoroughly.
But as members of Eudora United Methodist Church stood in the church parking lot Nov. 24 and watched smoke billow out of the main doors, they already had begun the healing process.
“There were a lot of the people who had worked on the building standing out there, and we found strength in just hugging each other and crying,” The Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff said. “We reminded each other that it’s just a building and all the people are the church, but it just hurts.”
It’s not uncommon for tragedies to strike and leave those affected unable to fully realize what has happened. Tomson-DeGreeff said that isn’t the case in this instance. He also said the timing is especially difficult because this year would’ve been the congregation’s first Christmas in its own building.
“We definitely comprehend what we’ve lost,” he said. “Part of what is really painful is we had just decorated for the Advent. This was going to be the first Christmas in the new building and we were very excited. All is going to have to be on hold.
“I’ve had to completely rethink what the themes of worship will be. We’ll focus on healing, and we can focus on the joy of Christmas”
Claggett and Tomson-DeGreeff also were appreciative of the support they have received from the community and surrounding churches.
“It’s amazing,” Tomson-DeGreeff said. “My phone has been ringing off the hook. We’ve had an outpouring of phone calls and prayers, and that’s meant everything to us.”
It could be about two to five months before the congregation can meet at the church.
Until then, the congregation will meet each Sunday for 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. services and the 9:15 a.m. Sunday school classes at Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 1003 John L. Williams Dr., just off east 10th Street.
Donations for the Eudora United Methodist Church can be sent to P.O. Box 520, Eudora, KS, 66025.
For more information on schedule changes, visit www.eudoraumc.org