The group ate and reminisced about better times all while looking out at the pile of ash and debris that was once their 120-year-old sanctuary in rural northwest Platte County. The congregation’s annual hog roast went on as planned even after a fire burned the church to the ground a week earlier.
“It’s good to see everyone coming out,” Short Creek interim pastor James Kerns said. “I think the church needs this, the support. This is part of the healing and restoration of the community. The church is a community in itself. It’s well worth it.”
Multiple agencies responded to the church fire, which began shortly after 7 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. The flames rapidly spread forcing the firefighters to concentrate their efforts solely on saving the church’s parsonage.
The work proved successful with the nearby home suffering only minor damage despite the intense heat and flames. The official cause of the fire was undeterminable.
In wake of the unfortunate event, Short Creek’s normal congregation of 12 to 15 members swelled for the hog roast, buoyed by members and former pastors who have since moved on to other places of worship but came back and lend support to friends affected by the flames. Attendees enjoyed food and drink and much needed fellowship.
Rev. Steve Noyes, now the interim pastor at Weston First Baptist Church, served three different stints as interim pastor at Short Creek and then served as pastor for more than 10 years at the church before resigning in 2013 after earning a promotion at work. He came back for the hog roast, a special effort in wake of last week’s events.
“It’s kind of heart-wrenching,” Noyes said. “I knew the people. I served in the church. It was over 120 years old and well taken care of. Of course the church is the people and not the building, but still, there is a lot of attachment to the memories in that building. It’s a real shock.”
Doris Turnbull, the church’s music director for the past 50 years, proved to be an excellent historian of the congregation. She attended services in the now-destroyed building almost every week since she was one week old in December of 1943.
There are still many decisions to be made on the future of the congregation, but the first step is cleaning up the mess left behind by the fire. As for now, the group will continue to meet each Sunday in the parsonage with a new piano and new hymnals just re-ordered to once again give the congregation a voice to praise the Lord.
“There were people crying and breaking down,” Turnbull said. “Most of them didn’t even go to church here. I guess they think it’s funny that I haven’t shed a tear. I told them, ‘That was an old building.’ I didn’t see it as any loss because I knew God was in control and everything would be taken care of.”