A fire broke out at the Prayer Chapel of The Church On The Way (Van Nuys Foursquare Church) in the Los Angeles area, one of Foursquare’s most well-known churches as the longtime home of Jack Hayford, who was senior pastor there for more than 30 years and also served as the movement’s president.
Monday evening’s blaze caused significant damage to the roof, the interior of the main floor and the attic of the two-story Prayer Chapel. No one was in the building at the time, nor were there any injuries, and Pastor Jack’s basement office escaped damage.
The alarm is understood to have been raised by a law enforcement officer responding to another call near the church campus on Sherman Way in Van Nuys, according to Tyler Shaw, executive pastor of operations at TCOTW. The cause of the fire is not yet known, he says, “but we have no indication that it was started maliciously.”
Church communications were affected by the fire, as power to the building—which is used for youth ministry and also houses the church’s servers—had to be cut off. Middle and high school programs will be relocated elsewhere on the campus.
Prayers and expressions of concern from some of the many thousands who have attended or visited TCOTW through the years were posted on its Facebook page. “So many memories there,” wrote one person, while another recalled having been married there in the 1970s. They described the building as “a spiritual landmark of God’s blessing!”
In an email message to church members, Senior Pastor Tim Clark said that it was “a sad day” in light of the many “significant life events” that have taken place in the chapel. “I’ve spoken to many who encountered God’s presence and who heard the Lord’s voice giving them life-direction in that very room,” he wrote.
But he reminded people of what he had said in his sermon two days previously, that “the church isn’t the building—God doesn’t live in buildings made by human hands—the church is God’s people! We can celebrate that there was no loss of life, there were no injuries, and, quite miraculously, most of the important documents, books and personal items that were in the building were unharmed.”
Jack Hayford was senior pastor of TCOTW from 1969-1999, returning to lead the church for a short time during a transition in 2003. During his leadership, membership grew from fewer than 20 to more than 10,000. He was Foursquare president from 2004-2009, and was named pastor emeritus of TCOTW in 2015 in honor of his leadership contributions.