Congregation will strengthen and rebound after Denver church fire

An early morning, two-alarm fire at a long-standing Denver church scarred the building Thursday, but the congregation remains thankful and strong.

“We are glad no one was seriously hurt and that none of our neighbors’ homes were damaged,” said AJ McDonald, pastor of the Odom Memorial Church of God in Christ. “We are encouraged that we’ll build better and stronger.”

More than 60 firefighters battled the blaze, which was reported at about 6:15 a.m. by a passerby, who immediately called 911, seeing smoke coming from the structure, said Capt. Greg Pixley, a fire department spokes person.

Firefighters arrived at the church, 3301 Williams St., and found a “well-involved fire” in the attic and the ceiling space, Pixley said. One firefighter suffered minor injuries when he fell, to his waist,  through a second-story floor deck that had given way.

Office space at the two-story building was heavily damaged by the fire, Pixley said. The church sanctuary sustained water and smoke damage.

“This was one where the firefighters pushed, with the effort in mind, to get ahead of the fire and not to lose the building,” Pixley said.

“We will build better and stronger”

The structure housing the church, a block north of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, was built in 1925 and was initially a theater, McDonald said.

McDonald’s father, WH McDonald, has been a pastor at the Pentecostal church, which has a congregation of about 150 members, since 1983. The elder McDonald also serves as bishop of the Church of God in Christ Colorado community, which has about 40 churches.

For the past year, Odom services had been conducted via Zoom because of the pandemic. The faithful just recently returned to worship together in person, wearing masks and social distancing, on Easter Sunday, AJ McDonald said.

“There’s a rich history here, we are a family church,” AJ McDonald said. “People with masks on just enjoyed the Lord that day.”

Parishioners come from throughout the Denver area to worship and attend services that are rich in music and singing. The church offers Bible study as well as prayer services. An outreach addiction recovery ministry, The Drug Bust, operated by the church was suspended because of the pandemic, but plans call for the program to recommence as COVID-19 restrictions loosen.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing. City and church officials are still determining how much damage the building sustained. The church owns the property and a GoFundMe page has been started seeking contributions to rebuild.

“It’s a building and although we have precious memories here and we have experienced the feeling of God here, we will move on and we will build better and stronger,” AJ McDonald said. “God has made us strong, this is not the end of the story, it is another chapter in the story. We will open the doors and say ‘All is not lost.’”

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