Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bethany fire likely accidental

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 8/6/2014

The cause of a fire that burned much of Bethany Chapel Baptist Church remains undetermined, Jeff Carner, Ottawa fire chief, said.

The nearly 147-year-old church, 131 S. Poplar St., Ottawa, was badly damaged when a fire broke out shortly before 5:30 a.m. Monday, according to reports at the scene. The church was unoccupied at the time of the fire, witnesses said.

The cause of a fire that burned much of Bethany Chapel Baptist Church remains undetermined, Jeff Carner, Ottawa fire chief, said.

The nearly 147-year-old church, 131 S. Poplar St., Ottawa, was badly damaged when a fire broke out shortly before 5:30 a.m. Monday, according to reports at the scene. The church was unoccupied at the time of the fire, witnesses said.

Total damage to the church reached $818,000, Carner said. The building is appraised at $231,320, according to county documents.

“Although listed as ‘undetermined’ we are confident the fire was accidental in nature,” Carner said.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Armogen Walker, said the church plans to rebuild through donations from the public and through a ministry program called “Hand Me Another Brick.”

“It’s a building ministry that we have that was put in place by a previous member named Onetta Edwards,” Walker said.

One of Walker’s biggest priorities, he said, are to restore tradition of the church, which is the oldest black church in Ottawa, finding a place to worship for the largest group of minorities in the city, and rebuilding a location to help those who used the church for food and shelter.

“[The church] houses more minorities than any other church; that’s where most of us are,” Walker said. “[A man said], ‘This is where I eat.’ And on the first Fridays of every month we feed the homeless, so I have to figure that out. Not so much as homeless, but those who are less fortunate in the community. So I got to figure out how I’m going to get that back.”

Walker said he met with the church’s executive board members to discuss bids to begin excavation of the church’s remains and decide where to hold church services during the rebuilding process.

The church’s next service is planned for 10:45 a.m. Sunday at the Fredrikson Chapel, 1011 S. Cedar St., on the campus of Ottawa University, Walker said. Sunday School is set for 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

“We’re trying to determine where were going to hold services for now,” Walker said. “So we’re not homeless.”

Walker said he was appreciative of the Ottawa church community and law enforcement and emergency personnel who helped during the fire.

“Those guys have extended their hospitality in a great way, and we’re so thankful for them,” Walker said.

Donations may be mailed to Bethany Chapel Hand Me Another Brick at P.O. Box 247, Ottawa, KS 66067.

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