Jacksonville Grace hosting fire-displaced First Christian Church


By Greg Olson
Jacksonville Courier-Journal

JACKSONVILLE -- A Jacksonville church is welcoming a fire-displaced First Christian Church congregation to use its church building for worship services and other activities.
“Grace [United Methodist Church] has extended an invitation to First Christian as a kindness to fellow Christians,” said J. Cook, pastor of First Christian Church.
First Christian will hold its first worship service at Grace United Methodist on Easter Sunday, April 24.
“There have been a number of churches that have offered their facilities and hospitality to us since our church burned in November,” Cook said. “The reason for us to accept Grace’s offer is because our attendance would require a larger sanctuary, and we were able to work with them in providing a regular Sunday morning service.”
First Christian Church has not occupied its church building at 508 W. Vandalia Road since Nov. 29, when it was heavily damaged by fire and smoke. The church has about 450 members who regularly attend worship services.
Grace United Methodist Church Pastor Mike Fender said the church’s administrative board voted unanimously to welcome First Christian.
“One of the things we are trying to do at Grace is to practice the concept of radical hospitality and this is to step out in faith and practice Christianity, not just talk about it,” Fender said.
“It’s another way for us to live up to the United Methodist motto of ‘Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.’ This is a wonderful opportunity for us to serve our friends in Christ.
That’s our purpose. They have a need and we have the ability to fill it. We need to do it.”
Since the fire, the First Christian Church congregation has worshipped at Turner Junior High School and more recently in the Jacksonville High School auditorium.
“We want to evaluate how it works in one church with two separate congregations,” Cook said. “We want to be polite guests and show the community that two separate denominations can work side by side.”
He said negotiations are under way to sell the West Vandalia Road property to a business and construct a new church building. Cook declined to comment further about the buyer.
“We have hired a Chicago design/build company to prepare a master site plan for our property on South Main Street north of Pennell Forklift,” Cook said. “We’re possibly looking at building a new facility in that location within the next two years.”
(Reprinted with permission from the April 3 issue of the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, www.myjournalcourier.com)