Kay Byrne, who has been attending Eudora United Methodist Church for about 40 years, said the process of moving into a new church building only to have it gutted by a fire nine months later was a learning experience.
“I know we appreciated this building before, but maybe we’ll appreciate it a little bit more this time,” Byrne said.
Susie Dickerson, a church member since 1965, agreed with Byrne’s assessment, and cited not a hymn but a Barry Manilow song to illustrate the point.
“Maybe it will be like the song says: ‘Love is lovelier the second time,’” she said.
After a Nov. 24 fire caused $800,000 in damage to the building that opened in February 2008, members of Eudora United Methodist Church had to return to the temporary quarters they had used while awaiting completion of the original construction. On Sunday they returned to their new home as the church rebooted its ministry.
Several parishioners wore light blue shirts emblazoned with the word “restart,” which the Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff said was a rallying cry for the church.
“The image that just kept coming to my mind was when a computer starts freezing up or slowing down, you have to restart it to get going again,” he said. “When we move back in we’re restarting, but not just the building. What we’re going to start doing is a whole process of spiritual renewal — looking at our ministry and our mission and how we can do it better and really make it version 2.0, not just words.”
The blaze, which was ruled an accident, caused fire damage to the sanctuary and smoke damage throughout the building located just south of Kansas Highway 10 on the western edge of Eudora.
While the chuch was being restored, EUMC had been holding its Sunday services at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Eudora and had its small groups meeting at Eudora’s St. Paul United Church of Christ.
Previous estimates had the building being ready in early September, but Rob Claggett, chairman of the church’s board of trustees, said he pushed for a shorter timetable.
Tomson-DeGreeff said the congregation became somewhat more close-knit during the interim.
“I wouldn’t choose to get to this point through this process,” he said. “But when all else is taken away, all you’ve got is your faith and each other. It’s a just building, but it’s not the church. We are the church.”