The Kansas City Star – by Lynn Horsley
For the congregation of Westport Presbyterian Church, the past four and a half years have often felt kind of like wandering in the wilderness as they tried to recover from a devastating fire.

But as people streamed into the church on Saturday for a celebratory reopening — featuring saxophone music in the sanctuary, English folk dancing in the basement and refreshments in the fellowship hall — all the hardship appeared to have been worth it.

Now, people said, the church has emerged as a lesson in faith, answered prayers and rebirth.

“It’s been a journey from trauma to wonder,” said the Rev. Scott Myers, pastor of the church for the past 22 years, who nearly despaired after the fire broke out Dec. 29, 2011. It destroyed much of the church that had stood at 201 Westport Road since 1904…BNIM Architects and A.L. Huber general contractor were hired for the project, which cost an estimated $11 million, mostly paid for by insurance.

The blaze affected three buildings that make up the church.

The fire and several feet of water from the firefighters’ hoses heavily damaged the main building, which included the sanctuary, chapel, second floor and basement.

The stone work remained intact and was incorporated in the redesign. But modern codes required that a steel frame be built inside to support the flooring and walls.

The new sanctuary is a modern church “delicately inserted into the historic stone walls,” said BNIM architect Erik Heitman. One emphasis was sustainable and environmentally progressive design.

Pinewood and all but one of the church’s dozens of gorgeous stained glass windows were spared and creatively reused in the new building, which has a new entryway much closer to Westport Road.

The second building, grafted onto the church’s east side in 1916, was destroyed and had to be completely reconstructed. It has a new storefront that is much more welcoming and accessible to Westport Road than before and is available for use by community and neighborhood groups…

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