MINNEAPOLIS, MN (March 7, 2014) — Eight months after an arsonist destroyed the sanctuary of Community Covenant Church, the congregation dedicated the restored worship space on Sunday.
Last July, an arsonist set fire to the church’s piano. When the fire spread, flames scorched part of the baptistery and a portion of the ceiling. Heat from the flames melted all of the church’s sound equipment, and the entire first floor sustained smoke damage and was covered with soot.
The arsonists also scrawled racial epithets on the church’s garage. The multiethnic, inner-city congregation of 200 people is 60 percent African American.
Pastor Luke Swanson said that although the arsonist destroyed the sanctuary, “He lit a fire in our souls.” There was no way the act of hate would destroy the church’s ministry, he added.
The church has been worshiping in the sanctuary for the past month. During Sunday’s service, Swanson reminded the congregation that, “the church is called to be more than just a building.”
President Gary Walter participated in the service. “It was so heartening to see the perseverance of the congregation, and more so, the affection of the community for their effective ministry,” he said afterward. “The rebuilding becomes a tangible reminder of how God rebuilds our lives even following heartache.”
Insurance covered $150,000 of the $200,000 repair costs. Neighbors and other churches, including Covenant congregations from across the country, contributed the remaining amount.
“Through all of this, we just feel so thankful to be part of a denomination,” Swanson said. “In a day and age when people are non-denominational or anti-denominational, we see the strength of its support. We knew we were never alone.”
Just days after the fire, Swanson said that even while the congregation was grieving the loss, it was looking to the future. In this first week of Lent, he echoed his words of hope from last July. “God is pretty good with ashes,” he said.
To see a slideshow video about the restoration of the sanctuary, click here.
Photographs by Sarah Swanson