With any tragedy, there is a human face to the event.
After the total destruction of the First United Methodist Church late Wednesday evening, members of the congregation are turning to their faith to seek the direction they will take in the future.
“Our church council is meeting at 9 a.m. (Thursday) morning and as with all things we will begin with prayer,” said Mike Cassidy, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church. “We will go through the emotional stage first to begin the healing process.
“As with any loss the planning side will have to happen,” Cassidy said. “Sometimes that helps with things and moving forward.”
More than 125 members worship at the historic downtown location each Sunday and the sanctuary is home to several civic organizations that used the facility for meetings.
“There was a Narcotics Anonymous meeting here last night,” Cassidy said. “One of the first things I did as soon as I got the call was to check to make sure everyone from their group was safe and out of the building in time.
“We are blessed that no one was injured in the fire,” Cassidy added.
First United Methodist Pastor Jim Downing, who Cassidy called the heart and soul of the church, was unavailable for comment Thursday morning, as he had just arrived back in the United States.
“I have spoken to Jim,” Cassidy said. “He finally was able to take his trip to the Holy Land and has been trying to go really hard for the past three years.
“He landed back at JFK (airport) earlier today and said he had been receiving all of these texts saying that people were praying for him and his loss,” Cassidy added.
Cassidy went on to explain that no one had mentioned in the numerous texts to Downing that a fire had destroyed the church until later in the evening.
Cassidy added that Downing was also gone in late August 2015 when the church suffered damage when some of the parapets of the church fell off the roof.
“We had a structural specialist come in about a month ago to inspect the building and they said that it should withstand another 120 years,” Cassidy said.
“I don’t think he accounted for fire,” Cassidy added softly.
Cassidy said the members of the church were planning on a mini revival, which they had hoped to begin in upcoming months.
“We are so fortunate and blessed to have our sister church (the Celebration Center) on 32nd Street,” Cassidy said.
Several members of the community were at the scene downtown to share stories of the meaning of the church in their lives and offer condolences to Cassidy.
“I go to the Celebration Center but this is where I come for special services and get togethers,” Sedalia resident Sheila Ream said. “This is where the history is.
“It’s just so sad to think that it is all gone,” Ream added. “It is just so important and the stories that were told here are so beautiful.”
Dan Welch agreed.
“This is one of the most beautiful and oldest structures in downtown Sedalia,” Ream said. “It’s so sad that it is gone.
“I know they can replace the structure, but it simply wouldn’t be the same,” he added.
While Cassidy said it is too soon to discuss what the future may hold for the physical structure of the church, all three agreed that there is one certainty to the loss and that is the people and their faith.
“At the heart are the people,” Ream said. “That is why I attend here because of Pastor Jim and his teaching of the Bible and the people.”
Cassidy added that it is because of their faith the church will go on.
“We talk a lot here about how God is using us right here to do his work,” Cassidy said. “We will be in prayer and listen for God to let us know what is next.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484. Photo by Faith Bemiss.