Last updated: August 22. 2013 6:51PM - 58 Views

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You can define small towns by their churches. Like schools, they are the community centers. People go not only to worship, but also to drop their kids off at day care, to take part in a pancake breakfast and meet their neighbors.That's what makes the fire last week at Ada's First United Methodist Church so sad. The fire deprived more than area Methodists of their place of worship — which is devastating in itself — but it also robbed the larger Ada community of a gathering place.No one was hurt in Tuesday's fire. Sixteen children and two Head Start teachers were finishing a tornado drill when the fire alarm sounded. Though they assumed it was just another drill, the teachers got the children out safely. That is a testament to the importance of training for such emergencies and calmly doing what you're supposed to do when the real thing happens.But now, Ada and the First United Methodist Church community have to deal with the present reality.Demolition began Thursday afternoon on the structure that's stood on North Main Street since 1899. The west side of the structure remains, and a church email to members said it could be part of “future consideration.” Debris from the church could remain for weeks, The Lima News reported Friday. The state fire marshal's office believes an unattended candle ignited something flammable, though unsafe conditions at the site prevented it from determining an exact cause.The Lima region, from Putnam County down through Auglaize, Mercer and Shelby counties, has what is known as the Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches. When you look at those communities, these Catholic churches are what stand out. In other communities, such as Ada, churches of other denominations often fill that role.“This church is also set in the life of a small town and in the lives of individuals who, one by one and in their uniqueness influence its worship and ministry,” the Rev. Wayne Albertson wrote in 1999. “And, the church is also the context for the life of the town and all those individuals whose lives it touched briefly or intimately and regularly for a lifetime.”The people and institutions of Ada are coming through in First United Methodist Church's time of need. The church will resume its normal Sunday schedule today at Ohio Northern University's English Chapel. The university and community groups responded right away with offers of help.That, too, is the definition of this area.

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