Westport Presbyterian Church is commemorating the first anniversary of the fire that destroyed the church building and unveiling tentative plans for the rebuilding of the church Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, the church held a candlelight vigil in the parking lot of the Westport Presbyterian Church building, located at 201 Westport Road. Folk and bluegrass guitarist Kelly Werts performed and lead attendees in song.
Rev. Scott Myers, pastor of Westport Presbyterian Church, said the event will give the congregation and community a chance to join together in a common purpose of committing to re-creating a center of community and spiritual life in Westport.
"This vigil gives us the opportunity to reflect on a trying year for the congregation and the community," Myers said in a news release. "While the fire damaged the building, it has made the church stronger and renewed our commitment to the neighborhood."
At 9:30 a.m. Sunday at The Villa, located at 4120 Baltimore, the congregation will unveil the next phase of the historic building's life at a breakfast. Myers said the church is reviewing concept designs from local architecture firm BNIM and will unveil some of the designs. The public is invited to attend and participate.
The church tentatively plans to complete renovations and return to the Westport Road building by the end of 2014.
A fire severely damaged the historic Westport Presbyterian Church building Dec. 29 of last year, causing an estimated $6-7 million in damages. The 100-year-old building was home to the Westport church that was founded in 1835.
Since mid-February 2012, Westport Presbyterian Church has been meeting nearby at The Villa of Kansas City. Myers said the church has spent the remainder of the year not only beginning to rebuild but strengthening its commitment to the Westport neighborhood.
The church's stained glass windows have been removed and placed in storage. The adjoining day care center, Willow Woods Child Development Center, was damaged by smoke and water, but re-opened shortly after the fire.
Westport Presbyterian also interviewed 150 people "from all walks of life" in the Westport Community during the first phase of a community needs assessment.
"It has been exciting, and we have learned a lot. The community is saying to us to help solve problems and act with creative compassion with respect to the needs of homeless persons, teenagers and the largest group in Westport, young adults," Myers said. "Given the rapid changes in the world today, people are also calling for more dialogue between people of all faiths and also with people of no faith."
The church established a fund at Bank Midwest to help pay for the cost of rebuilding the historic church building. Donations can be sent to:
Westport Presbyterian Church Fire Relief and Building Fund Bank Midwest, Brookside Banking Center 6249 Brookside Blvd. Kansas City, MO 64113
Click here for more information on Westport Presbyterian Church and its community programs.
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