Church reopens 19 months after fire

Inside the rebuilt Westview Christian Church on August 3, 2014.
Sunday marked the end of a 19 month journey for the congregation of the Westview Christian Church at 5925 West 34th Street on the city's west side.

In that time, the church has been rebuilt following a devastating fire that did nearly $300,000 worth of damage.

On Sunday morning, church members celebrated their first service inside the building after the fire.

Rita Miller, an original member, attended the service and still recalls the congregation's humble beginnings.

"We met on folding chairs! We were blessed from the beginning with people who cared," she said.

That compassion was perhaps never as evident as it was just two days before the Christmas of 2012 - the 50th anniversary of the congregation moving into that building. An electrical fire roared through the building just hours before church was set to begin.

"I came racing up here. I came racing up here," Miller said. She was in shock to see the damage and still struggles to make sense of it. "Everybody was wondering why, why why. I don't think we'll ever know why."

But through the tragedy, there's a bond that's grown among the congregation. It's also meant a chance to start over in a familiar setting.

"Because of the fire, there was an opportunity to make a lot of changes, but we wanted to stay true to who we are as a church," said church leader Karen Johnson.

The church had to be gutted all the way down to the original pillars. Most of the stained glass windows were also preserved.

As crews rebuilt the church around the pillars and walls, they were able to make the building handicap accessible and make other upgrades.

Insurance and fundraisers helped make it all possible.

"For me, it means that God has blessed us greatly," Johnson said.

And while church-goers have had to learn to embrace change, they're happy to be home in their building and hope for another 50 years.

The church worshiped at the Speedway Baptist Church during the 19 month project. A leader there was on hand for Sunday's dedication.