EUMC looking on the bright side after fire
After November’s fire in the Eudora United Methodist Church, EUMC administrative council chairperson Janet Gabriel sometimes feels as though she’s living her own version of the movie “Groundhog Day.”
Despite the pain of seeing the destruction of church facilities that so many congregants helped build, Gabriel concentrates on the positive side of the situation.
“The first time I walked back into the building after the fire, it was like déjà vu of 18 months ago,” Gabriel said. “And it’s twice now that I’ve gone out and bought a Christmas tree the day after Christmas and then had to store it. But now we’ll get to go back and do all of our celebrations again.”
EUMC Pastor Michael Tomson-DeGreeff said the facilities will be open again this summer, though he was not positive when.
“It’s hard to predict, but we’ll be back in there sometime this summer in July or August,” he said.
The EUMC congregation had been in its new building for about nine months before the fire destroyed the main sanctuary and caused smoke damage throughout, causing an estimated $300,000 to $500,000 in damage. The sanctuary must be gutted and the building now is being sealed and cleaned.
The church had replacement insurance, so it only had to pay a $1,000 deductible.
The congregation’s response to the fire was especially emotional because of its work to construct the facilities.
“Part of why the grieving is so hard is because we did invest so much of our time in this,” Gabriel said.
However, Tomson-DeGreef praised the manner in which they have responded to the tragedy.
“I don’t feel like we’re completely down,” he said. “We’re still having strong attendance and keeping all of our ministries. I’m really proud of the congregation and their ‘we’re not going to let this stop us’ kind of attitude.
One of the positives both Tomson-DeGreeff and Gabriel mentioned was the ability to go back and move a light switch here and an electrical outlet there. Another positive has been the overwhelming support from communities and churches near and far.
The fire also caused Tomson-DeGreeff’s to change the subject matter of his sermons, meeting EUMC congregants where they were in the grieving process.
“The sermons I had planned coming into the New Year were scrapped and now we’ve been focusing on healing and grieving, which has been really powerful,” he said.
EUMC Sunday services are 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 am with Sunday School at 9:15 a.m. at Warren-McElwain Chapel.