Shortly after 10am on Tuesday morning, March 9th, a fire broke out in the pastor's study at Grace Presbyterian Church. Evidently the thermostat on a space heater turned on during the cool night before. The old cord is believed to have become hot and started to burn. Our custodian was just arriving to clean the church and in God's providence a fire truck was riding by along 58th Street. One of the fire-fighters noticed what appeared to be smoke curling along the roof so they decided to check it out. As our custodian unlocked the door he was startled not only by billows of smoke, but also by the rush of fire-fighters hurrying past him into the building. The call immediately went out on the emergency 911 network.
This is the 911 image as it appeared on the internet at 10:07 am.
The presence of both our custodian and the fire truck enabled a quick response from the fire department and from many of our people as soon as we got the message.
The pastor had been home with the flu since the week before when he got the call that the building was on fire. He arrived to find the area blocked off and crowded with emergency vehicles, local media trucks and a crowd of on-lookers.
It was the beginning of a long day as the fire was quickly brought under control and soon put out. When the air was finally cleared enough to enter the building and inspect the damage the lingering choking effects of smoke, burnt wood and water soaked floors made it a challenging experience.
Church members heard the news by way of phone calls and e-mails and those who were available came away from their busy schedules to help us secure the building and begin to see what we will need to do to ensure that their work and care for one another continues as a spiritual family.
The Pastor's entire study was gutted by the flames. The roof over it was badly burned and smoke damage penetrated into the other rooms. Almost everything in the building was damaged beyond reuse. The building itself sustained medium damage and will need an entire new roof and most of the trusses will need to be replaced. Several interior wall will have to be replaced along with our lighting fixtures, carpeting, and the paneling on the walls.
We have been told that our insurance coverage will not cover all our losses which includes replacing all our seating, hymnals, sound equipment, office furnishings, copy machine and computer network. Over 1,000 books carefully selected as resources for our pastor, elders, Sunday School teachers and congregation were all rendered unusable either by the fire or by intense smoke penetration. All the pastors files including his notes from seminary and research were destroyed.
Some have asked us how they can help financially so we have established a "fire recovery fund" which we will be able to draw from to help meet the needs as things are slowly replaced. We thank all those who have prayed, shown concern, and sent financial support.
We are not yet able to know when the building will be able to be used again, but the estimate is that it may not be ready until mid or late summer.
God's providence is often hard to understand, but it is never without good purpose. We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Our duty in those hard to understand circumstances is to keep our eyes on the great purpose for which we are created and redeemed: to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. To help us to best carry out this duty please pray that God will direct us to choices that are most able to promote the good spiritual health of God's people, and ensure our Lord's honor as we server him together.
The congregation is going through an interesting challenge brought into its life by the Lord over all things. The work of Grace Presbyterian Church as a part of Christ's Kingdom will be adjusted and we hope in the long run improved as we go through the process of recovery.
We appreciate the faithful prayers and concerns expressed which so wonderfully characterize our spiritual family. Our Session and Diaconate continue to work on the details of repairs and ways to maintain our various ministries effectively. Please be in prayer for these important deliberations. Currently we are meeting in the "club house" of the Twelve Oaks Mobile Home Park for morning worship at 11:00am. We are providing a modified Sunday School program for our children at 10:15 before our worship time.
Below are some pictures that compare the Pastor's study before and after the fire. It shows the damage to the structure, furnishings and the shelves of now charred books that once lined the West wall.
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