Church members lose sanctuary in pre-dawn fireWritten by Mark Hensch | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Firefighters battled a 2:09 a.m. fire June 25 at First Alliance Church. The blaze seared through part of the roof, causing a collapse of the church’s sanctuary by 8:30 a.m. With a third of the church destroyed, its members are already rebuilding the 2201 Monroe St. building.
“This is the building we gather in to worship and it’s gone,” said Keith Sholl, the senior pastor. “God is giving us a new vision. Out of the ashes will come a glorious new ministry sharing God’s love.”
Sholl said he arrived around 3 a.m. as flames shot out of the church’s attic and roof above the sanctuary. He said it was built in 1922 after First Alliance, a Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination church, moved from what is today the Toledo Repertoire Theater. Between 450 and 500 people attended the church, he said. The senior pastor at First Alliance since 1999, he said he believed the destruction would bring his congregation closer together.
“It is just a building,” he said. “A church is its people. God will give us a plan for our future to move forward with strong courage and grace doing his work.”
Lin MacDonald, a member since 1969, said the tragedy was “very sad” given the joy there only days before. She said her 24-year old daughter, Jessica, married in the sanctuary June 20. During the ceremony, she said, her 20-year old son Eric played piano and sang for his sister’s matrimony. Between such a wonderful moment and the church’s loss, she said, she sees a war of good and evil.
“The ceremony was so spiritual,” she said. “God was there, he was right there with us. I think Satan was so mad he tried to it from us. That is not going to happen.”
Captain John Vedra of the Toledo Fire Department said the fire was largely under control by the time his morning crew arrived on the scene around 7 a.m. Given the strength of the inferno, he said, it was fortunate the church’s Sunday school and library sections were less harmed.
“The fire was so hot it turned the steel structures into pretzels,” Vedra said. “There is quite a bit of this building saved.”
The crew fighting the conflagration, he said, used multiple hydrants without any water trouble. No injuries were reported, he added.
The firefighters’ fast work, Sholl said, enabled church members to salvage many historical documents and church computers by 5:30 a.m.
“We are very positive about it all,” Sholl said. “If I know our people this will unite us together for God’s purpose in the future.”
Facilitating the rebuilding process is Cousino Harris Disaster Kleenup Inc. of Perrysburg. Hired by the church 7 a.m. June 25, Senior Estimator Tom Peternel said his group plans on removing rubble before cleaning and preserving the remains. Over the next few days, he said, Kleenup would pump out five feet of water from the basement while helping the group set up its interim office down the street.
“Our job is to preserve the building as much as possible,” Peternel said.
Christian and Missionary Alliance District Superintendent Jeff Brown said he was thankful no one was hurt in the fire. The tragedy provides a powerful message, he said.
“It is hard to see,” he said of the devastation. “It shows us the temporary nature of things on Earth. We will continue to allow God to use us to minister to the community.”
Scholl said he would give sermons across the street at the church’s fellowship center for the foreseeable future. A temporary church office was planned for the church’s youth center on the corner of Monroe Street and 22nd Street, he said. The fire’s cause was unknown, he said.
Church trustee Jim Emmenecker said the church would find new strength in the aftermath of the flames. He said no matter what, First Alliance would face the future together.
“What we have here is an act of God whether you want to believe it or not,” Emmenecker said. What happened here is natural. What God is going to do is supernatural. Eventually this will make us stronger.”