Fire interrupted the service Sunday at Trinity United Methodist Church.
The congregation was signing “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” when the Rev. Jeff Slater heard a noise. He thought it might be feedback coming through the new sound system, but church member Leroy Hensley stepped out of the sanctuary to check. It was coming from smoke alarms.
Slater said two acolytes lit the church candles a few minutes earlier and placed the candle lighters next to a rack of robes in the lobby. The acolytes had properly extinguished the candle lighters, but they were still hot enough to cause the combustion. The flames spread to a wooden cabinet, the wall and ceiling tiles.
Hensley returned and let everyone know they needed the exit the sanctuary. No one was injured.
“You could feel the heat,” Slater said. “I was proud of this congregation – at how calm and orderly they were getting out. I was especially proud of how well the people took care of one another.”
Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano said trucks were dispatched to the church at 5700 Broadway Ave. at 9:40 a.m. There was minimal structure damage, but smoke throughout the church.
That wasn’t the end of the Sunday service, however.
“Once the fire was under control, we formed a circle in the parking lot and prayed,” Slater said. Members prayed for each other, but there were many prayers for people suffering throughout the world, including those injured or killed in Boston and Texas, and those affected by recent earthquakes in China and Iran. “It was a holy moment,” the pastor said. “It put our own troubles in perspective. It made us realize how blessed we are, even at a time like that.”
Cleanup at Trinity UMC continued Monday morning. The church preschool that meets Tuesday through Thursday should not be affected, Slater said. He said the church has insurance and was already in the process of renovation, although some recent work must now be redone.