Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Waurika worships in new sanctuary


Everett Hodges leads music Aug. 28 as Waurika UMC dedicates its new sanctuary.

Photo by David Laughlin

Fire in 2008 was arson

By David Laughlin
The Waurika News-Democrat

What started as a disaster turned into a testimony.

Nearly three years ago, a blaze ripped through the sanctuary at Waurika United Methodist Church. The fire was a crime of arson, law officers determined.

On Aug. 28, the church conducted a dedication service to consecrate the newly finished sanctuary.

"I was here the morning after the church burned down," Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. said at the service. "We prayed near the rubble of what used to be the church.

"Every end brings with it a new beginning."

Pastor Karen Slater read the invocation to a full sanctuary. The invocation itself was significant; the church’s leaders chose to use the same one read during the dedication of the original building on April 25, 1965.

"May this house be so filled with Thy love that little children will find their way to this altar and to the saving power of the Son, Jesus Christ," Rev. Slater read. "May all who enter these walls feel the call of God to true repentance and Christian service."

Slater wasn’t pastor at the time of the inferno, "but I can understand how devastating it was," she said. "It would be absolutely tragic to get a call telling you your church burned down because of electrical issues. To get a call that your church burned down and someone set the fire—that would be devastating."

On Aug. 20, 2009, Justin Blake Adams was convicted of arson and burglary. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

"This congregation has been working on releasing any anger or frustration they had with the young man that did this. That’s why you can really feel a lightness in this building," Slater said. "They have forgiven."

At the dedication, the congregation also heard from Terry Forst and Roy and Monica Bartling.

"This has been a long process, but we had the best committee ever assembled," said Forst, who chaired the Building Committee. "We all came together and made the decisions we felt were beneficial to the entire congregation. We now have this lovely building—but we have always had a wonderful church."

Monica Bartling informed the congregation that construction was covered by insurance. "I can assure you all, we did not spend a single dime out of the general funds," Bartling said.

Bishop Hayes’ message reminded the audience to put God first.

"God has been in this since the very beginning because we put Him there," Hayes said. "We came here today not as Waurikans or members of the church; we came in the name of God.

"If you put God in the beginning, He’ll be there in the end. In 1965, this church started out right. Three years ago, as we prayed while the church was still smoldering, we kept it in the name of God."

(From Page 1, Waurika News-Democrat, Aug. 31, 2011. Reprinted with permission.)


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