Our neighborhood suffered a tragic loss today. Early afternoon, just before a communion service, Woodlawn United Methodist Church at the end of my street was discovered to be on fire. Everyone made it out safely, but this landmark church, built in 1912, did not survive.
I still can't believe that I sat on my porch all afternoon only two blocks away obliviously working on the quilt show layout. The wind was blowing away from my house and the train trestle blocked any view of the devastation on the other side. I heard a few sirens, but we're not that far from the fire station and that's not unusual. About mid-afternoon I discovered via a post on my neighborhood's Yahoo group that the church was on fire.
Only when a friend and I left for dinner did we drive out that way and were stunned to see the church utterly destroyed. The beautiful stained glass windows could not contain the fierce heat and had burst onto the street. The antique fixtures and furniture were nothing more than tinder for the all-consuming fire. By the time we saw it, only a portion of the left side of the building was left standing. The tower to the right was gone. Amazingly still in place was the main roof truss still holding the chain for the massive chandelier that hung over the sanctuary.
Even as I write this, firefighters are still at the church continuing to work in the dark to prevent any hot spots from re-igniting. Reports say the flames seemed to come from the basement initially. The fire marshall will hopefully have more to tell us in the days to come.
On this the day of Pentecost, a congregation knows that the church is not defined by its building, but by the family that worships within and that the power of God prevails in our lives in the face of destruction and loss. That something new and better can rise out of ashes and that the Holy Spirit can work through believers to bring about true community and to support those in need.