“The Christian church burned down last night.” The words flashed from the Facebook page. I scrolled frantically down the screen only to discover graphic pictures of orange flames against the night sky. I sat in sick horror as I clicked from one post to the next. My home church was gone.
My stomach knotted and my eyes blurred as I read the Facebook account. “A charred scrap of sheet music in a neighbor’s yard is all that remains of the contents. As townspeople watched in the 3 a.m. darkness, the roaring orange flames melted the lead and the colored glass of the irreplaceable windows crashed into the burning basement. Three memorable works of art gone in minutes. Only the memories remain.”
A hundred years of memories. No one remembers the landscape of the town without the brick structure of the Kansas Christian Church. But this morning in the local coffee shop, the bank, the elevator, the library, the lumberyard or any place where two or three gather together memories are shared with a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye. And Facebook becomes the place for all who have moved away to remember and find comfort.
A former preacher’s daughter who now serves at a mission in Montana wrote, “I used it as my playground - climbed all over the outside and pretended I was a rock star on the inside.”
Another wrote, “my wedding in the beautiful building and a gorgeous sunny afternoon. Standing at the threshold with my Dad while waiting to walk down the aisle and seeing the sun stream through the wonderful stained glass!!!!
A young man posted this memory, “when times were tough and money was tight the community let my family clean that building and just something about doing the work together just makes me smile.”
Many wrote of singing loud in Jr. church, of youth groups and Muppets in the services. Several spoke of “ choir specials; the wall chimes playing at the end of each Sunday morning service; Christmas tradition: KCC's 100th Anniversary celebration.” One young man reminded his friends of walking on the ledge around the outside of the building.
So many lives touched; so many memories shared. And my memories are rampant as I walk this morning. I remember the cold night of my baptism as a young teenager, and the summer I taught my first class there, and the early morning wedding ceremony fifty-six years ago to my young soldier boyfriend.
It was in this building with our family as witnesses that his friend Dean Speece immersed my 62-year-old father in baptism. I
remember thinking then what a brave thing to do at that age and now it doesn’t seem nearly so old. And in that same building several years later our family sang that old hymn How Great Thou Art at my Dad’s funeral.
After his death, my mother with community help donated to build a handicap ramp for the building in honor of my father. Yesterday, when I saw the burned building with only a few walls standing that ramp was still there. For me it was symbolic of the heritage of this building. The Kansas Christian church building is no longer, but just like the ramp, the Kansas Christian Church is still there.
We sing “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord” and when circumstances destroy a building, we are reminded that our faith is not based in stained glass windows and brick walls. Fires will not destroy the Church. The Church Jesus established remains in Kansas, Illinois and any place where people confess Jesus as the Son of God.