PCM History: The Fire in 1978
"Church Blaze Puzzling to Pastor"
An early morning fire blasted the inside of an Omaha church with smoke and heat Monday, causing an estimated $150,000-$175,000 damage. Irvington Fire Chief Ed Townsend said the fire in the Presbyterian Church of the Master, 2815 N. 108th, apparently spread form the pastor's study at the southeast corner of the church through a hall and into the sanctuary, starting at about 3 AM. The church's distance from the fire hydrant and trouble with the pumper engine complicated firefighting.
The quote above was taken from a newspaper article published May 30, 1978, the day after "the fire." Though never proven, the cause of the fire is believed to be arson. The fire destroyed Rev. Keith Cook's office and personal library. Smoke and heat damaged most of the building. The actual losses were closer to $275,000. PCM lost most of the folding chairs used for worship, hymnals, office equipment, a Steinway piano, an organ that was just a few months old, and more. The original, rough-hewn cross had been in the Fellowship Hall and somehow survived the fire in 1978. It was moved to its current location on the East Wall of the Communications Center in 1998.
There are many shared memories among those that gathered in the chill of the pre-dawn on that Memorial Day. As the Irvington firefighters finished their work the Session and other members sadly left the scene for Denny's to have breakfast. At 8:30 a.m. that same morning Session met in our mobile home annex (the Sunday School "wing" at the time) to begin picking up the pieces and making plans for our growing congregation of approximately 550.
Reconstruction was to take nearly six months. During that time worship services were held either outdoors or at the Old Mill Holiday Inn. Offerings were collected in "KFC" buckets! We were able to return for worship on the Sunday following Thanksgiving that year: November 19, 1978. Again, the closeness and shared faith of our church family held us together. It was during this time period that we kicked off our most aggressive building campaign to date, which culminated in the completion of our sanctuary as it is today.
Plans for our building expansion began years before the fire when PCM commissioned a long-range planning committee for that purpose. Our ministry had grown and participation in worship, Christian Education, mission and fellowship programs stretched our small building to the max. PCM was on the move and in great need of more space.
We broke ground for our fist expansion just six months after the fire on December 3, 1978. This project was to include only the sanctuary and connecting passage from what is now the Fellowship Hall. Although pledges for this project would not cover the entire cost, PCM moved on nonetheless. The contractor was secured for the project and many members spent nights and weekends building cabinets, staining woodwork, hanging dry wall, and doing all kinds of finishing work. Separate fund-raising campaigns for things like our worship chairs, dry wall for the common area, carpet, landscape, and our "PCM Window" helped to fund the project and reduce our debt. The sanctuary was completed and the first worship service was held on August 26, 1979 and dedicated on September 9.
In 1979, Mary Hansen, PCM's first Associate Pastor was hired.