Church picks up pieces after fire

Friday, October 9, 2009

On Sept. 3, a fire broke out at the Monett Community Church, gutting two offices and spreading smoke damage throughout the majority of the building.

Flame damage was limited to Pastor Chad Bennett's office, and the classroom next to the office. Water also damaged some of the middle floor and the basement.

"The firemen did an excellent job containing the fire to those two rooms," said Bennett. "If it had burned through the ceiling, the place probably would have been gutted. I am very pleased with everything that the fire departments did. They kept the water damage to a minimum."

The church building is an old Masonic temple with three complete floors, a balcony and a small attic storage space behind that.

The clean-up process is underway. The building, constructed in 1922, will is set to undergo reconstruction and cleaning. The building has three ceilings on each floor, so they will have to be torn out and sealed. Some of the walls will have to be removed but most will have to be resealed and repainted.

"One thing that we are looking forward to," said Bennett, "is restoring the woodwork to its original state. Most of it had been painted."

Bennett stated that the people from the insurance company and some of the contractors have talked and really appreciate the value of the building and character and seem to support what the church is trying to accomplish.

"We are early on in the process where we have finished our scope of damage," Bennett said. "They have gone through and looked at everything that needs to be done. From here, we will determine what kind of building code variations need to be changed.

"The difficulty of having this interview right now as opposed to a month from now is that we still don't have all of the information we need to determine what we will do," Bennett said." "We have three options, but the fact remains that we respect the old building, and we want to see it restored."

In the weeks following the fire, the congregation went through a grieving process.

"We were trying to sort through some of the grief," Bennett said. "This was a major inconvenience in our lives but the other side of it is all of our possibilities are good, and however this plays out, we are going to be okay. "There are two things that I feel like the fire has done for us," said Bennett. "The church has remained positive, and it has reminded us of who we are and that the church is not the building, the church is the people."

Bennett said the building was not purchased with the intention of staying there forever.

"This has been a good reminder to help us to stop and say, okay, we are going to have to put a lot of time and energy into solving all of this and whatever this transition looks like, it is going to take a lot of work on the church's part, but it is a good time to remind ourselves that we are about the community. It is not about us.

"This is part of the reason that we took the name of Monett Community Church," Bennett said. "The church was never to be about the church members, it was always suppose to be about the community and the surrounding area. The community has also helped the church recover from the fire by donating desks, donating time to help clean and numerous other contributions. Glen and Sharon Garrett opened up the old First United Methodist Church Building so that there has been no interruption of services.

"Monett Community Church is blessed to be part of this community," said Bennett. "This has been an incredible journey."

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