February 2, 2005
Fire struck the Eden UB church of Mason, Mich., last Friday, January 28. The fellowship hall and offices burned to the ground, and the sanctuary was also destroyed. Eden has an average attendance of about 240. Pastor Wes Emerson gave the following details to Steve Dennie on Monday afternoon.
The fire started around 3 pm. The secretary and janitor were in the building, along with several parishioners who were doing some work in the new Family Life Center. They heard the fire alarm go off, and when they opened the door into the old area to investigate, they discovered smoke. Investigating further, they discovered that the soundbooth in the back of the sanctuary was on fire. The fire escalated incredibly fast, and they had to run out of the building.
The fire spread first into the fellowship hall, and then made its way back to the sanctuary. The sanctuary looks okay from the outside, but is severely damaged inside and is most likely not salvageable. “Inside, it looks like it was bombed,” says Pastor Emerson. The church held services in the fellowship hall from about 1965 to 1979, when the current sanctuary was built. The congregation just recently completed its Family Life Center.
Pastor Emerson said it appears to be an electrical fire, which may or may not have actually begun in the soundbooth. The offices were lost, along with all the equipment (computer, copy machine, fax, etc.) and church records. Pastor Emerson kept the bulk of his library in his home office. The church employs two part-time secretaries, but all of their equipment was destroyed. Margaret Maybee, the Music director, had an office in the basement of the fellowship hall, so her office was destroyed as well.
“The good thing is, the fire stopped where the new building begins,” says Pastor Emerson. “They were connected. We had a fire wall and sprinkler system in the new building. The firefighters were actually fighting the fire from that part of the building, and it stopped. We still have the new facility, but can’t use it for a while because there was water and smoke damage, and the fire department had to create holes in the ceiling. But in a few weeks, we’re told we’ll be able to use it to hold services.”
In the meantime, the First United Methodist church in Mason invited them to use its facilities. They will meet in the Methodist sanctuary at 11:30 on Sundays (the Methodist congregation holds its service at 9:30). “They’ve been real gracious. They told us we can worship there until we can come back to the Family Life Center.”
The Eden congregation met there on January 30. Pastor Emerson says, “We had at least 340 people, one of our largest crowds in a long time. They filled every pew and were in the lobby and balcony, shoulder to shoulder. There is a real sense that we’re going to be unified and get through this.”
The church had good insurance coverage through Brotherhood Mutual. The church is holding an emergency board meeting tonight (Monday), and will meet with insurance representatives later this week.