Arson hasn’t been ruled as the cause of an Aug. 5 fire at Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon, Wash. — but it hasn’t been ruled out either, according to the Rev. Kevin Schubkegel, the church’s pastor.
No one was injured in the blaze, which was discovered just after midnight and took eight firefighting crews about three hours to bring under control. Flames destroyed about a quarter of the building — including the choir room, kitchen, a storage area and part of the sanctuary.
The estimated $1 million in repairs are not expected to be completed until next spring. So the 180-member congregation and its preschool and other ministries are meeting off-site until then.
But in spite of the hardships, Schubkegel says “the Lord has taken care of” Trinity, the only LCMS congregation in the county, and the experience has been nothing short of “amazing.”
At least a dozen local churches — as well as a hospital, a nursing home and the YMCA — have offered worship space, and the pastor has taken phone calls from numerous LCMS colleagues and other Christians expressing their concern and offering help. One area church even offered to change its own worship times to accommodate the Trinity congregation!
“Honestly, it’s through trial by fire that our faith is tested,” Schubkegel told Reporter. “And then you can see how God’s people react in faith — you see evidence of their faith and it is powerful and exciting.”
The post-fire experience, he said, “has been such a wonderful process” and has made him “feel that we’re one body in Christ.”
On the Sunday of the fire, the Trinity congregation worshiped outside on the church lawn, and since then they’ve been meeting in the cafeteria of the nursing home across the street. Beginning Sept. 9 they’ll be worshiping in the theater of nearby Skagit Valley College, probably until their church building re-opens. Trinity’s preschool is considering relocating to a Presbyterian church two blocks away.
It’s no joke that, since the fire, the congregation’s outside reader board carries the sentiment “Fired up for Jesus!” According to Trinity’s website, “the congregation is even stronger in hope in Jesus, our Savior” in spite of the significant damage to their church building.
Schubkegel says that, contrary to headlines, “the Lord’s church and work are not ‘closed'” at Trinity: “We like to think that we have spread out our operations, perhaps even sending many of our Bible studies and meetings back into the community, homes and public meeting places, closer to where they are most needed.”
Sometimes it takes something as serious as a fire, the pastor told Reporter, to “see the powerful work of God through our Synod and other Christian churches.”
Posted Aug. 31, 2012 / Updated Sept. 2, 2012