"We are fine," says pastor after fire destroys church building
By Connie Faber
“Gospel Fellowship Church is fine,” says Pastor Bruce Bogar one week after the congregation’s building was severely damaged by a fire, “but the building isn’t doing quite so well.”
Gospel Fellowship Church (GFC) is a USMB congregation with about 75 attendees established 58 years ago in Wolf Point, Mont., a community of about 3,200 residents.
Bogar reports that the damage from the Nov. 18 fire may be worse than it first appeared, although a final evaluation has not yet been completed. The church is an L-shaped structure located on the corner of Hill Street and Second Avenue North. The original 80-by-40 building was constructed in 1956 when the church was established and currently houses the youth room and fellowship hall. An addition, built in about 1986, includes the sanctuary, church office and work area on the main floor and Sunday school classes in the basement.
The fire marshal determined that the fire started with the furnace located in the addition and moved from the furnace area to a workroom, through the sound room and then into the pastor's office. As the fire burned, the furnace fell through to the basement.
The fire quickly moved through the heating ducts and thick smoke filled the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. A heavy curtain separating the sanctuary from the fellowship hall had been pulled, and it appears that the curtain helped to keep the fire from moving into the fellowship hall.
Before the fire could engulf the entire building, the Wolf Point Volunteer Department arrived on the scene. Firefighters worked for three hours in frigid temperatures to control the fire.
The morning fire burned through the interior of the 80-foot-sanctuary addition, damaging 48 feet of the rafters. There is significant smoke damage throughout the entire structure. The entire building, including the basement, was also damaged by the water used to fight the fire and from a water pipe that broke during the fire.
Members of the Wolf Point community, including church leaders, have supported the USMB congregation in a variety of ways this past week, says Bogar. “Something like this unites in spite of doctrinal differences,” says Bogar. “People have shown their love and concern.”
The Gospel Fellowship congregation met Sunday morning, Nov. 23, at the Sherman Inn, a local hotel, to celebrate God’s goodness and to worship his greatness. Meanwhile, GFC has received multiple offers from area churches willing to share their facilities.
Among the offers was one from Community Bible Church (CBC), a church of 15 to 20 attendees that belongs to the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches (formerly Conference of Evangelical Mennonites.) Last night, Nov. 24, CBC leaders invited the GFC congregation to meet with them at least through Christmas. CBC is currently without a pastor so Bogar will preach weekly at the joint worship service. The two congregations will evaluate the arrangement in about a month, says Bogar.
Bogar’s prayer is that his congregation will be an encouragement to their hosts during the next weeks as the two congregations worship together. “We want to be a blessing to them because they are blessing us,” says Bogar.
This coming Sunday, Nov. 30, the two congregations will share communion and in December they will join together in the holiday events that each congregation typically plans.
When asked how the larger USMB family can pray for his congregation, Bogar says, “That the Lord will be honored and glorified and his purposes accomplished.” Bogar also asks for prayer that the congregation will remain unified in Christ and will listen to God’s leading.
Looking beyond his congregation’s own needs, Bogar again speaks of being a blessing to the community. “We want to continue doing what the church is supposed to do,” says Bogar.
Photos by John Plestina, editor of The Herald-News, Wolf Point’s weekly newspaper.