LORAIN, OH - A Lorain church congregation is rising from the ashes of unimaginable tragedy, after a 2014 arson destroyed their sanctuary but did not break the spirits of people who call First Lutheran Church home.
Sunday after years of vowing to rebuild, the dream was realized when the doors to First Lutheran Church opened again, this time in a newly constructed building.
"It's been 168 weeks since we worshiped on a lawn right across the street after the fire," said retiring Pastor Jimmy Madsen.
The years since the fire left many numb but one thing never faltered: the belief of members who knew one day they would worship in a new place to call their own.
"That's what drew me to his congregation: the resiliency, the love and compassion the people of this congregation have," said Reverend Rosalina Rivera, who has been with the church since May.
The church managed to salvage remnants of the original building like several stained glass widows and a piece of a pipe organ, now transformed into new works of art.
The opening of the church doors was a symbol of determination, dedication and prayers answered for a community who through their tears never lost faith.
"I was married in the church; my parents were buried in the church," said nearly lifelong member, Diane Eswine, choking back tears. "To have such an important part of your life disappear - it was hard."
Long-time members say although the worst is behind them, they hope to grow stronger together and create another 90 years worth of memories in their new church home.
Reverend Rivera invites the community to their official opening celebration Saturday December 2 at 11 a.m. at the church located on 1019 West Fifth Street.