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Congregation Continues Thanksgiving Tradition After Church Burns Down

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Fire crews spent most of the day Sunday hosing down the Evangelistic Center Church, after a damaging fire caused an explosion and partial collapse.

Updated, 3 p.m. Friday Nov. 25:

After suffering a massive fire earlier this month, the Evangelistic Center Church east of downtown wasn’t sure they could provide their typical community services after a fire destroyed their building.

The fire incinerated both the old building and a newer annex, including a kitchen and pantry full of goods for Thanksgiving.

But, on Thursday, more than 50 people came to volunteer at Line Creek Community Center, where the church was able to host its Thanksgiving meal for the community. And it wasn’t just members of the congregation.

“We had people who heard about [the fire] on the news; one teacher came from one of the schools and brought five of her students,” Pastor John Crane says.

With their help, the Evangelistic Center Church was able to provide full supplies for Thanksgiving meals to more than 70 people.

“It showed how people’s heart, in the midst of tragedy, can turn and do something positive,” he says. “Rather than get so self-absorbed on what we went through, think about how we can give and change. There’s a community out there that needs help.”

And, Crane says, if the outpouring of support from the community has been any indication, they can continue to serve their neighbors in need, even without a building.

The Kansas City Fire Department has declared the fire accidental but has not pinpointed a cause.

As the church awaits final tally on the damage, they’re hosting their Sunday services at Nieman Elementary School in Shawnee.

The original post continues below.

A fire that began at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning has destroyed the Evangelistic Center Church in downtown Kansas City.

Soon after crews from the Kansas City Fire Department arrived at the scene, they were forced to retreat from the century-old building due to rapidly changing conditions, The Kansas City Star reported. Shortly after that, there was an explosion and partial collapse.

KCFD Deputy Chief Todd Ackerson said after retreating, crews began to "surround and drown." For nearly 10 hours Sunday, fire crews hosed the building from above. 

"Pretty big fire, pretty big loss here," Ackerson said.

Though the KCFD suspect a gas leak caused the initial fire, the cause is still under investigation. No one was in the building or hurt by the fire.

Neighboring pastor Gaylord Mustin, of Mosaic Bible Fellowship across the street, said Evangelistic Center Church does a lot of important work for the community, in partnership with City Union Mission. 

"It's a little disheartening, you know, Sunday morning, especially when you find out it's a church," he said. "With everything that's going on, people need a place to gather and hug and worship."

Sunday night, the congregation gathered at Nieman Elementary School in Shawnee for a prayer vigil.

Andrea Tudhope is a freelance reporter and producer for KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @adtudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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