In times of both joy and sorrow, the faithful gather. It was true March 3, 2016, when it seemed most of the Pettis County community came together in tribute to the loss of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Sedalia that had been destroyed March 2 by a devastating fire.
Two years later on a cold, blustery April Sunday, many of the same faithful gathered together to mark the groundbreaking of a new church in the 3000 block of West Thompson Boulevard. Sunday, Feb. 2, the faithful will again gather just as they have for countless Sundays and days of celebration and mourning to come together in worship at the new First United Methodist Church.
Pastor Jim Downing of First United Methodist and the Celebration Center said he anticipates a variety of people from both the congregation, the community and perhaps a few former staff and members of the United Methodist Church family from across Missouri to be present at either the 11 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. services Feb. 2.
“On opening day the message at Thompson will be unique to the occasion and location,” Downing explained. “Because we are uncertain of the number of individuals who may attend we have scheduled two services for Sunday (Feb. 2).”
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The Thompson Church is based in many ways on the historic downtown church constructed in 1888. Designed with Neo-Gothic architectural features by Marsh Water Woody Architects of Springfield, the church features elements of stone and stained glass along with a 300-seat dining hall and commercial kitchen for large gatherings of the congregation and community.
“It is important for us to be good neighbors and stewards for the community,” Downing explained Thursday afternoon. “This community sometimes forgets just how special Sedalia and its people are.”
With that in mind, Downing said the facility will be available to schools, civic organizations and individuals to use for events. A number of weddings are already scheduled for the church.
As individuals enter the lobby through the front doors they will be reminded of Psalm 100:4, “enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and onto his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name,” Downing remarked.
Sunday afternoon marked a day of promise and new beginnings as members, friends and family of the First United Methodist Church in Sedalia gathered to lift their voices in prayer and song, as well as shovels of sod, to mark the groundbreaking for a new sanctuary in the 3000 block of West 10th Street.
The nine arches represent the “Fruit of the Spirit” and the nine women from the congregation who lost their lives in a steam table fire in 1834 while preparing a meal at the Missouri Pacific Shops.
The sanctuary seats 400 and is a structure of light. Filled with symbolic stained glass, some of which are again based on windows from the 1888 church, the altar and west wall of the chapel are covered in wooden panels featuring a large cross made by local craftsman Jake Gieschen, owner of Jake’s Creative Woodworks, and his employees.
The cornerstone of the 1888 church and one of the pulpits from that facility have found homes in the Thompson Church. The pulpit had been brought to the Celebration Center prior to the 2016 fire and is one of the few items to remain from the 1888 church.
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While there are some plans for services to still be finalized, Downing explained a second Sunday service will be added at the new location later in the spring.
“On Saturday (Feb 1) from 5:30 a.m. to nearly midnight we will have the reading of the New Testament in the Togethering Place at the Thompson site,” Downing said. “Anyone can come listen or read for a bit.
“Also on Saturday, we will have a group meet at noon at our downtown location to gather some soil and process it out to the Thompson Site. Then at 2 p.m. a group will gather at the Celebration Center to gather soil and process it to the new site. These samplings will be mixed with Thompson Site soil in the service of celebration on Sunday.”
The church will offer an open house and guided tours from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3 and Tuesday, Feb. 4. Downing asked if individuals have a special memory they would like to share or pictures from the Fourth and Osage location, the church would like to have copies for its archives.