Faith in the Fire

You never know what a congregation is made of until they face a crisis. That's what the members of the All Peoples Church of Dallas is finding out. The church burned down in Dallas Tuesday night. The Dallas Morning News has a quite moving story about it.

As fire investigators shoveled through the blackened rubble of what once was the laundry room of an Oak Lawn church, pastor Jacob Rodriguez talked of a task far greater than rebuilding the church's steel beams and bricks.

Instead, the 27-year-old spoke of the faith his shaken congregation would need as it moved forward from a fire that reached 60 feet high Tuesday night and left the All Peoples Church gutted by Wednesday morning.

"They can take away our building, but they can't take away our spirit and our soul," Mr. Rodriguez told a group of reporters who gathered by crime scene tape at the site Wednesday morning.

"Behind all that smoke and those ashes, there is a blessing," David Lara, another local minister told Rev. Rodriguez. "Just trust in God."

The parishioners of All People's are in for a long rebuilding process, especially if there's arson involved, which is a possibility. Six months after their church burned, the members of Grace United Methodist Church in Burnsville, Minnesota, met with the teenager who started their church on fire. This was no case of easy forgiveness.

When it was the congregants' time to speak, they told Rousseau about a structure that housed memories β€” weddings, baptisms, funerals β€” and rites of passage that would never play out in the sanctuary, which was lost to smoke and flames. While most offered forgiveness, it was too soon for Lynn Kilian-Krohn.

"My parents started this church," she stood and said, her voice quaking. "When you started the fire you destroyed memories we could never get back.

"My daughter was supposed to get married in that sanctuary in July. She couldn't be here today, but boy she's got some words for you. You're going to have to ask God for forgiveness, because I can't. I can forget, but I can't forgive."

The fire caused $1.5 million in damages, and landed the arsonist, who's 18, in jail. He originally got probation but violated it within two weeks.

"What a shame for his parents, all they have gone through" Pastor Jean Rollin told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I feel very incredibly sorry for them as well."


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