November 15, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – After a weekend fire that raged for hours, not much remains of Evangelistic Center Church, which had stood at the intersection of Truman and Troost for more than a century.
The walls have fallen, precious keepsakes have been lost, and vital services provided by the church have been interrupted. To that end, Pastor John Crane, who’s family has been with the church for generations, held a press conference on Tuesday, November 15 to discuss the path forward. He began by thanking those in the community who have reached out in support of the congregation.
“Right now we just want to let you know that we’re so blessed by the outpouring of businesses, the community, and all of the pastors and churches that have just poured out compassion and love towards us,” said Crane. “It just means so much.”
Pastor Crane and other church stakeholders are currently working with professionals to ensure that what’s left of the building is safe and secure. From there, Crane indicated on Tuesday that it could be a few more weeks before everything is settled on the insurance side. In the interim, the ECC pastor announced that services will temporarily move to 67th and Nieman in Shawnee, where mass will be held on Sunday’s beginning at 10:00 a.m.
For Crane, the raging fire – which investigators say began accidentally early Sunday morning – took more than a house of worship. Crane’s family history at the church runs deep: in the 1950s, Crane’s grandfather served as pastor of the church. One of the priceless items lost in the fire was a sign that his grandfather had placed above the sanctuary which read, “Come, Holy Spirit, possess our lives.”
Crane’s father also preached at the church, and according to the pastor, his father died shortly after preaching his final message in the ECC sanctuary. After he was done preaching, the story goes, his father sat in the front pew of the church and suffered a massive heart attack. To Crane, ECC was like another member of his family.
“It just breaks your heart when you see it, because it has so much history just for me and my family, and my kids, and so many others in our church that grew up in it,” said Crane. “It’s just heartbreaking.”
The heartbreak hasn’t subdued the spirit of Crane and others who have dedicated themselves to the church. Despite losing Thanksgiving baskets and Christmas stocking donations to the fire, Assistant Pastor Darrell Robinson described what the church is already doing to get back on its feet following the devastation. That includes the continuation of a partnership with the nearby Heartland Center for Behavioral Change, which ECC had partnered with the provide warm clothing ahead of winter. ECC had served as a staging area for collecting winter clothes on behalf of the center.
“The Heartland Center said they still have needs. Those needs include men’s coats, winter hats, gloves and socks, and any other donations that could help buy other items for them,” said Robinson. “What we’re asking the public and community to do, since we can’t stage here, is to take it directly to the Heartland Center. That’s located up the street here at 1534 Campbell Avenue; they can take it seven days a week between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.”
The church is also looking for a new home for it’s Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, which had previously been held on site. To help keep the ECC’s outreach projects going despite the loss of the church’s physical location, a fund has been established at Country Club Bank under the title, ‘Evangelistic Center Outreach.’
“We’re going to continue to do outreach to the community and to these people who are depending on us,” said Robinson. “Every day, somebody walks past the building in need of something. So we see it every day, not just on Sunday morning.”
Already, the church has seen some good news in the wake of the devastating fire. On Tuesday, Crane received an offer from the Kansas City Scottish Rite (near the intersection of Linwood and The Paseo) to host services at their facility on an interim basis. The Scottish Rite originally built the church at Truman and Troost before moving to their new facility; ECC has been working with the organization to find a way to remove and preserve the Masonic cornerstone that is still standing at the burned-out site. Ben Kenney with the Scottish Rite extended the offer, free of charge, immediately following the press conference.