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What it looked like after the fire destroyed Foscoe Christian Church Jan. 8, 2014.

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Originally published: 2014-01-11 15:57:04
Last modified: 2014-01-12 09:06:59

Foscoe Christian Church

by Catherine Bare and Sherrie Norris

It has stood out as a beacon in the community for 90 years; its marquee changed weekly with a timely message to which countless travelers, and especially daily commuters, often gave more than a passing glance. Its long history took a hit through a devastating fire that turned its  building to ashes late Monday night, but Foscoe Christian Church is about people and their devotion to God, and fire has done nothing to change that.

The most recent message on the church lawn remains visible and is one that the community is returning to the church family: May God's Amazing Grace Be With You in 2014." It is being felt, already, church members have said.

According to investigators, an overheated furnace sparked the fire that resulted in the building's destruction. Brisk winds did nothing to help contain the fire as it erupted around 11 p.m. Monday night and raged for several hours.

Firefighters have said that it was one of the most difficult fires they have ever battled; high winds and frigid temperatures played a huge part in the misery, as did the fact that several of the brave volunteers were lifetime members of the church. They fought it valiantly, but the church building was lost.

Hushed parishioners, bundled in heavy coats, came a few at a time throughout the next morning, unable to comprehend the devastation of their beloved house of worship; a landmark in the community.

Foscoe Christian was founded in 1924, its congregation first meeting in a small structure which served its community well for  more than 60 years. The original building was the site of thousands of worship services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, revivals and singings. Through Sunday school, youth meetings and vacation bible school, hundreds of children came to know Jesus. Infants were welcomed to the community with baby showers and dedications.

Women of the Willing Worker's Circle cooked mouth-watering dishes for homecoming meals; their hands also prepared communion trays. They taught and loved the children, planted flowers and visited sick and shut-in neighbors.

The men taught, visited, maintained the facility and grounds, and looked after the local community members. Throughout the decades, there was always praying, singing, fellowship and inspiring messages. The focus of the congregation's work was always to glorify God and bring people into a saving relationship with Christ.

The members have always been loving stewards, taking good care of that which they had been blessed -- in the honor and love of God.
 
As their numbers grew, modifications were made to the church structure to accommodate the expansion.  During time, the members even dug a basement by hand beneath the sanctuary to add additional classrooms and a fellowship hall.

The additions to the original structure led to a unique and beautiful design, which former minister Ken Caswell said led to a close kinship of the congregation -- proof that everyone felt a oneness with each other. He commented that when he preached, he was able to make eye contact with everyone in the sanctuary. He remembered the older facility as "a building full of lovely people -- some of the best people in the world."

By the early 1980s, the congregation had grown to require more than a single worship service on Sundays. In 1986 a new, larger facility was completed adjacent to the older building.  Many in the congregation helped in any way they could to bring the new facility to completion. Excitement prevailed over the opportunities offered by a larger sanctuary and more classroom space.

Within the walls of the new church building, two more generations of children prepared excitedly for Christmas plays. During much anticipated weeks of vacation bible school, their smiles lit up the sanctuary as they sang "Father Abraham," practically shouting the words.  They sang "This Little Light of Mine," and learned about God's love; they also sweetly sang, "Jesus Loves Me," and came to know the truth and value of that single phrase.

During the years, dozens of newly married couples walked through the doors, ready to begin their life together; just as many families, or more, gathered with friends to memorialize their loved ones. As had been the case from the beginning, smiling faces welcomed one another at every service. New friendships developed and old friendships were renewed at homecoming fellowship dinners. Most importantly, the word of God was shared and studied.
 
For a time, youth meetings, some VBS activities and other events continued in the old church; by 2012 the decision was made to demolish the older building for additional parking and for possible future expansion. Although some members experienced sadness at giving up the building, everyone knew that it was ultimately just a building -- even though it was a site where a lot of people had been led to the Lord.

The congregation had time to accept that change. It is more difficult, however, for them to experience the sudden, unexpected loss of a constant part of life, as they did on Monday. 

Church pastor Dan Burks has said to the media this week, "The church will go on."  He has encouraged his congregation by saying, "Trust God to open doors and we will follow where He leads."

Following the tragic loss, the congregation has not lost sight that the focus should not be on the walls wherein so many came to know the love of God, but rather on the strong faith that helped build those walls. That faith continues.

God's continuing love assures in Matthew 28:20: "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  The grace of God truly is amazing.

Catherine Bare and her family are long-time members of Foscoe Christian Church.