Fire Destroys Willson UMC

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By Rick Wolcott

“This is so sad,” said Robert Crew.  “It’s a really big loss – a loss that isn’t coming back.”

Crew is a 30-year member of Willson United Methodist (North Coast District) in Cleveland.  The 120 year-old structure burned on October 19.  Parishioners could only look on in tears as the Cleveland Fire Department doused hot spots Sunday morning.

“Words cannot describe what I felt when I found out about the fire,” said Trustee Committee chair Collins Bennett.  “It’s hard to believe.”

News of the fire quickly spread.

Bishop Julius Trimble of the Iowa Conference asked attendees of the North Central Jurisdiction Commission on Religion and Race Annual Learning Event in Independence to join hands in prayer.  The former superintendent of the then Cleveland District talked about the ways Willson UMC impacted the community over the years, changing lives.  In his prayer Trimble reminded all of us that, “out of the ashes life shall rise.”

Current superintendent the Rev. Dr. Peggy Streiff spent the day comforting parishioners and working with the Cleveland Department of Building and Housing to save what could be salvaged.  The extensive damage from the fire made the building unsafe.  By the end of the day, demolition crews had knocked down all but the entrance way of the church.

Two stained glass windows, the lectern, the guest book table, the light that hung in the entrance way, and the contents of the church safe were able to be saved.

“In our work we understand that there are things that people get attached to – a church building is one.  It’s important that we respect their loss as we do what we need to do to keep people safe,” said Rufus Taylor, bureau manager of demolition for the Cleveland Department of Building and Housing.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, as are plans for where parishioners of Willson UMC will gather for worship moving forward.

“We are sad for the loss of this beautiful building but we must remember that the church is not a building.  The church is the people,” said the Rev. Lorry Mabiala.  “We are very glad that there were no injuries.”

View videos of demolition below:

8 thoughts on “Fire Destroys Willson UMC

  1. You all are in our hearts and prayers. I hope all the UMC come together to help rebuild what Satan, will try, but can’t destroy!

  2. Heartfelt prayers are going out the the congregation and their pastor. I know what it is like to come up to the church you serve in and find it destroyed, only for my congregation and myself it was a February tornado. Only the building is gone but the church remains. I pray that sometime in the future a new building will be there to house God’s church.

  3. I am deeply saddened by the loss of this church as it was the church that I grew up in. I have many fond memories of the time that my family spent as members of the congregation. My prayers are with the pastor and members of the congregation.

  4. So sorry to hear about the loss of your church home. But always remember YOU are the church. The church I belong to experienced a similar tragedy 50 years ago and with God’s help and some very determined people, we began again! You won’t be shaken. God is with you! – Beth Irwin, Epworth UMC, Maumee Watershed District, West Ohio Conference

  5. My prayers are with the congregation. Our United Methodist church suffered severe damage in a fire July 2012. The office, education wing & fellowship hall were all that survived, so we understand all too well the shock & grief they are feeling. We are rebuilding now, and pray for God’s guidance for them as they make the decisions in the days to come.

  6. Prayers lifted for Pastor Lorry and the congregation. We, too, are grateful no one was injured. -Tammey and Phil Wilden, Mid Ohio District

    1. My heart weeps for Pastor Lorry and those who have been affected by the loss of this beautiful church.

      Jackie Hamilton, Huron UMC

  7. Our hearts go out to you all, and we pray for comfort in this difficult time. Pastor Dave St.Aubin, Brandon and Lock Federated UMCs

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