‘Where two or more gather’: Odessa church holds services despite fire

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ODESSA, Mo. -- "When two or more gather in his name, he is there." That's a line from the book of Matthew in the bible - and it's the guidance Woods Chapel United Methodist Church Odessa relies on now.

The church burned to the ground early Thursday morning. Yet on Sunday, it still held a service.

Pastor David Mortenson stood in the parking lot of Woods Chapel UMC Odessa Church and told the 60 or so people in folding chairs: "Where two or more gather in his name, he is there. And it`s true."

The circle of chairs blocked some, but not all, of the charred wreckage of its 135-year-old church.

Three days since Woods Chapel United Methodist Church Odessa burned to the ground, the smoke still rose from hot spots in the century old wood. But, in a manner of speaking, the congregation also rose.

Pastor Mortenson explained, "We had a memory service. We sat there and people share their memories."

"I am 58 years old," Penny Sisk said proudly, "and I was told I probably came in here when I was 3 days old."

Sisk has eight generations of memories tied to the church.

"My great-great-great-grandfather`s name was engraved in a stained glass window," she said.

Her grandson told her Thursday morning that he wanted to help rebuild the church.

That, said Pastor Mortenson, shows the true heart of the church.

"The memories are actually in the heart. As long as we come together in worship, it doesn`t matter where we are," he said.

Until Thursday, the church off Highway 131 was older than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Already, other churches offered up worship spaces to Woods Chapel. Others have offered pianos and bibles. Tradesmen have offered their services.

And yes, the congregation wants to rebuild.

"It`s not going to be the same building, we know that," said Sisk, whose family has been here since the church formed, "and it may not look like it, but we want a building here for our children and the generations to come."

Roughly 30 people regularly attend services here. On Sunday, it was close to 60. But remember, it only takes two.

Pastor Mortenson told FOX4 an electrical short may have started the fire, but there is no official cause yet.

The congregation says they've got a lot of thanks to share. They tell us they've been overwhelmed with the support from people in Odessa and churches around the state.

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