Posts Tagged ‘LCMS’

From Reporter Online, the official newspaper of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, posted April 22, 2009: Two churches burn, one classified as arson:

Investigators say the early-morning fire April 4 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Yankton, S.D., was set deliberately, but church officials have no idea why.

“A tornado you can understand,” St. John’s Pastor David Gunderson told the Argus Leadernewspaper.  “This, you wonder why people would do it.”  Gunderson says he knows of no one who would have a grudge against the 500-family congregation.

The fire was discovered about 3:20 a.m.  Some 65 firefighters from Yankton and nearby towns fought the blaze for seven hours, and had to return once when winds reignited it.

Most of the damage is on the south end of the complex, so a lounge, offices, and work rooms are “pretty much [totaled],” according to Gunderson.  Collapsed ceilings, and smoke and water damage are “everywhere,” he said.

Total damages are estimated at more than $2 million, most of which is expected to be covered by insurance.  Repairs — including the meticulous cleaning of a $300,000 pipe organ — may take six months or more to complete, as part of the complex will have to be rebuilt.

 Associate Pastor Steven Weispfennig, who has been at St. John’s — his first congregation — for only nine months, described the week or so after the fire as “an emotional rollercoaster,” as he experienced “shock and sadness at what we lost,” as well as “joy in seeing the congregation coming together and supporting and encouraging one another.”

Perhaps as a symbol of the congregation’s resilience, its “eternity candle” continued to burn, even as firefighters were hosing down the building.  Located in the main worship area, hanging above the baptismal font, the candle’s flame has never gone out.

That congregational resilience was evident within 24 hours of the disaster, when St. John’s held a Palm Sunday worship service with communion, new-member welcome, a children’s choir, and palm branches that were “miraculously preserved” in a church cooler.  All Holy Week and subsequent services were held at Mount Marty College, a Catholic institution two blocks south that has offered its auditorium to St. John’s “for as long as we need it,” according to Gunderson.

“The community support has been overwhelming,” he said.  “Other churches have raised funds for us.  Everybody’s offered us a place for weddings.”  The church’s preschool and offices also have been relocated.

In the midst of members’ shock and sadness, the congregation is “adapting,” said the pastor.  “Overall, we’re still in the business of sharing the Gospel with people.”  In fact, 19 St. John’s youth were confirmed on Sunday, April 19, at Mount Marty.

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