Fire decimates Clearfield church, ignites community spirit

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 4:55 a.m. MDT

Church member Linda Phillips and North Davis firefighter Alan Hadley look at the Clearfield Community Church on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, following a three-alarm fire.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

CLEARFIELD — Linda Phillips awoke early on a rainy Wednesday morning to see a fallen landmark.

As she shuffles tearfully among the charred debris of what used to be the Clearfield Community Church, her spirits are bolstered by the surrounding community support.

“I heard there were many people here last night, grieving with us and offering help,” Phillips said. “It’s reflective of the church itself, which has always been so inviting and welcoming to anyone and everyone.”

The fire began Tuesday afternoon at 200 S. 500 East and reignited more than three hours after fire crews first battled the flames. The fire is suspected to have started in the basement, moving quickly to the west wing of the church, which will likely be a total loss, fire officials said. 

Members of the nondenominational Christian church were joined by their neighbors as they watched firefighters work to save their beloved church house. 

“We were amazed by the many people of different races, different religions, different professions, who were here to support us,” said Ramon Ramirez, a church youth leader. “It’s great. Although we’re from different backgrounds, in times like this, we come together.”

“There’s not only a lot of unity among the churchgoers, but the whole community is behind seeing something happen to restore the church,” said Jim Phillips, who has raised his family near the church since 1978. “It’s been a central part of the community since the early days of World War II, and we will see to it that it continues to be.”

Doris Stott has been going to the church for about 45 years.

“When I first came to the church, one of the older ladies turned to me and said, ‘We love Jesus, and if you come here, we will love you too.'” she said. “We call it a sanctuary rather than a chapel. It’s a very lovely, friendly church.”

Stott said the congregation has given much to the community, so she isn’t surprised by the show of support: “I think it’s wonderful that the community has come and helped us in our time of trouble, bolstering the positive relationship we share.” 

For Alicia Workman, a neighbor living near the church, offering support is the least she can do.

“We all feel real bad and want to help out as best we can,” Workman said. “I’m not a churchgoer, but if that was my church, I would be devastated. That’s a place you got to worship what you believe in.”

Though Workman knows none of the worshipers, she planned to bring food to a gathering Wednesday night.

As Pastor John Parsley stands before the burned building, he, too, is overcome with gratitude.

“Persons in the community have said, ‘We’ll bring buckets. We’ll bring sponges. We’ll bring hammers and nails, whatever you need,’” Parsley said. “We’ve had nine companies here helping us fight the fire, and we’re really pleased and thankful for their work.”

Various community affiliations have offered use of their facilities, he said.

“Some LDS facilities have been offered to us, some evangelical facilities, funeral homes, a school, the community center,” Parsley said. “We have been blessed with multiple offers of places to stay and serve and worship, and persons are going to let us know how that goes for us later in the day.”

He said the church will be rebuilt on the same ground.

“We’re going to continue the ministry from this quarter,” Parsley said. “God built this building, and he can build another one.”

Preliminary plans for the new structure are already under way, said Kyle Smoot, with Alpine Cleaning Restoration.

“It’s going to happen,” Smoot said. “As fast as we can move, we’ll get to it.”

Smoot said he expects it will be several months before people worship at the church again. But he’s not worried.

“The community rallied around the congregation last night. There were hugs and tears shed and the sharing of building history. Everybody has that sense of no matter what your denomination is, we’re here to help,” he said. “Out of such a calamity comes this amazing unity.”

The congregation planned to gather at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a nearby parking lot to maintain its weekly "meet in the middle" dinner and mid-week worship. 

E-mail: rlowry@deseretnews.com

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