KEWANEE -- Twice as many people as usual attended church Sunday at Zion Lutheran, the first time in eight months that church members could worship there. .|
A Sept. 9, 2012, fire caused more than $1.7 million worth of damage, shutting the church down for repairs.
"Once the roof was repaired, many in the community wondered what was taking so long, why we weren't worshiping back in the church building," church pastor the Rev. David Schweppe said.
"Well, the holes in the roof were only the beginning of the damage the church experienced. There was major water and smoke damage throughout the building. The whole education wing had to be gutted. The sanctuary and organ had to be completely cleaned of residue left by the smoke. And the heating and electrical systems also were completely replaced."
Many of those people attended services Sunday to see the repairs and renovations.
"We had 273 people with us," Rev. Schweppe said. "Our average attendance is 120 to 130, so we did well numerically-wise."
He praised the community for its support over the eight-month-long rebuilding process and Sunday turnout.
The church, at 250 E. St. South, will hold a re-dedication service of its renovated building in September, Rev. Schweppe said. "Sunday was more like a re-dedication of ourselves to the mission of our church."
Its mission, as echoed from Second Corinthians, Chapter 5, is a ministry of reconciliation, of bringing people together in peace, Rev. Schweppe said.
"In my 24 years of ministry, I've never experienced a congregation like this one," he said. "It's pretty obvious God is at work here. God is at work through these people. Their heart, their determination and their care for others despite difficult circumstances truly inspire me."
Getting temporarily displaced by fire "could have ripped apart a congregation, but that's not what happened," Rev. Schweppe said.
He said he believes church members came through it with a deeper appreciation of what the church means to them.
Several people who had "sat on the sidelines" before the fire, stepped up and did amazing things, Rev. Schweppe said.
He also noticed many high-school students in church Sunday, despite proms at three local schools the night before. "Many of those kids probably had only an hour or two of sleep, but they were there, and that was fantastic to see."
Reconstruction allowed the church to make some "fantastic" changes, he said. Lighting was enhanced, a new meeting room/library was added, and a handicapped-accessible washroom was installed on the main floor.
The choir room also was doubled in size; as was the church's Sunday attendance.
Sherrard, IL Details
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