Sedalia residents pay final respects as historic church destroyed by fire gets demolished

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SEDALIA, Mo. -- The tear down and cleanup of an historic Sedalia church began Friday. The First Methodist Church was a beacon of downtown Sedalia since 1888, until a fire destroyed it Wednesday night.

The loss of such an important part of the community has been difficult for people in Sedalia to deal with.

Crews worked up until about 5 o'clock on Friday afternoon, clearing the rubble from the area that used to be the sanctuary. It was hard for people to watch this hallowed building burn down, and is still hard seeing it scooped away.

"I cried, I’m crying now," said Henry Harris, who went to 4th Street and Osage to watch the demolition of the church building.

Wilbur Mosier, 88, and his wife became members of First Methodist in 1951. Both of his children were baptized in the magnificent sanctuary, and he and his wife spent over a half century of Sundays together, worshiping. Now, he can’t tear himself away.

“My wife passed about three years ago, she was, I really miss her so I just, I don’t know I just come down this morning, I came to see them tear the steeple down and I wasn’t going to stay any longer, but it’s silly," said Mosier.

They call Anna Buchanan the concierge of First Methodist. She brought her children to the church in 1993, and found a home at the church.

“As soon as we walked in they were surrounded by people and the love of the other members and we knew right then it was for us," said Buchanan.

She has mixed emotions about what to do with the remains, which now look like rubble of the once grand church.

"Something like make a prayer garden whether it’s here in town or across town at the celebration center, or something like that would be really nice,” Buchanan suggested.

Something to honor the special events that make memories of a lifetime, said Harris, “A lot of weddings, funerals, precious memories that people will always remember this, but there’s still memories there that were lost and will never be recovered.”

The historic church was the centerpiece of Sedalia, which was built by hand, brick by brick, stone by stone.

As crews hauled away what was left, people in Sedalia came to the realization the church building is gone forever, along with the stained glass windows that once made the sunlight dance. The magnificent sanctuary, a masterpiece of engineering for its time.

Until the church burned down, Buchanan described how they changed the lightbulbs the same way they did over 100 years ago, from a rig in the attic.

“There’s a plank maybe 8-10 inches wide where you had to walk across and hold onto a rope to a big square that had a crank on it, and you had to crank it down to the sanctuary so you could change the lightbulbs. Very scary because there’s not a lot underneath you and if you fell, you would go through the ceiling to the sanctuary," he explained.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, although fire officials believe it started in the basement of the church. The preliminary investigation has ruled out arson, which is comforting to those who love the church.