From right, Bishop Hayes leads all clergy at the Aug. 20 Orders Meeting in prayer for clergy couple Stephanie and John Crogan and for Okay UMC, which burned Aug. 18.
Photo provided by Emery Mason
A firefighter sprays a hot spot Aug. 18 inside the ruins of Okay UMC.
By Zane Thomas
Pastor Stephanie Crogan wants people to know the fire that destroyed Okay United Methodist Church on Aug. 18 didn’t destroy the congregation.
"We don’t want them to think this tore us down, because it didn’t," she said.
The fire occurred just after 12 a.m. and left little of the structure, which was almost 100 years old.
Even though the fire left the congregation with no home, members have kept their spirits high. A makeshift sign announced that worship Aug. 25 would be at the Okay Area Senior Citizens Center. The sign encouraged folks to BYOB – Bring Your Own Bible.
Rev. Crogan said there has been support from various churches all over the state.
"It’s been overwhelming what God’s children can do," she said.
Additionally, several church members said this is an opportunity for the community to be brought closer together.
Unfortunately, some people don’t share in their sense of unity.
Agent Terry Ferrel, from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, thinks the cause of the fire is suspicious. "I have indications that it’s other than accidental," he said. Ferrel, on scene in the church Aug. 19, collected samples as part of his investigation amid the acrid burnt odor that hung in the air. The samples will be analyzed at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation crime lab.
Prior to the blaze, the church was vandalized twice, in July and early August, according to Okay Police Chief Fred Winters.Vandals also hit Okay Public Schools Aug. 3-4.
"This town is devastated right now," Winters said Aug. 19.
The Okay church building was constructed in 1923. No one was hurt in the blaze. While the fire still smoldered nearby, Sunday morning worship was held in an unaffected pavilion on the property.
"Even though this has happened to us, this hasn’t kept us down," Crogan said. "We’re relying on God’s spirit."
She and the congregation are looking to the Bible to help them get through these events.
Crogan said 2 Corinthians 12:9 is fitting. "And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I glory rather in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (KJV)
Reprinted with permission, Wagoner Tribune, Aug. 21, 2013
Crogan and Muskogee District Superintendent Emery Mason asked the Conference for prayers after the fire. Crogan told the Contact in September, "We have definitely seen the face of God and hands of Jesus."
She was appointed in June.
Others have worshipped with Okay UMC in the town’s senior center, and Okay worshipped one Sunday at Fort Gibson.
Crogan asked members the purpose of rebuilding. "They’re under attack in the community, and we want to be a witness," they replied.