After arson, Bend church 'wounded but not broken'

Trinity Episcopal services welcomed at nearby church

Severely damaged church holds first service

BEND, Ore. - Trinity Episcopal Church in Bend held, at a nearby location, its first service on Sunday after a devastating series of fires left one of its buildings severely damaged.

As you can imagine, it was a tough day for church members.

The building where they worship was not available, and members say it won't be, for at least a year.

For now, different churches in the community have offered up space for them to hold their services.

"St. Helen's sanctuary, the choir loft, some of the beams on the roof," said Peter Lovering, senior warden of the church. "The roof sheeting is severely charred, severely burned."

Their church buildings were set on fire, two of several structures set in a string of arson that left a downtown Bend neighborhood shaken early last Wednesday.

"That all those who are hungry, those in need of welcome, those in need of healing, all those displaced and in any way harmed by our tragic fire may find comfort in the continued care and love that we show," said one of the church members.

The grieving was felt from the prayers to the songs, as the congregation sang a Psalm: "Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sin is put away."

Even the readings served as a way to move forward.

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation," said a woman reading from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. "Everything old has passed away -- see, everything has come new!"

"What better words for this congregation -- grieving, wounded -- but not broken," said the Rev.Roy Green, who had stood by and watched has the church he leads was scorched by flames.

"So friends, as your shepherd and pastor and spiritual guide, what I'm suggesting to you now is, our work now is to consecrate our pain," Green said."I've talked about it in earlier sermons, that it's a good idea. But now, it's our agenda."

Though in another location, blocks away, the impacts of the fire were evident at the service, held at First Nativity Lutheran, as the clergy weren't dressed in their regular vestments, and even the communion vessels were loaned from another church.

But all the members know, it could have been much worse. No one was injured, and many things were saved as well.

"If you know police or fire responders, you need to thank these people," Lovering said. "(Another) 15 minutes and we would be looking at a pile of ashes at the end of Wall Street."

Since then, Green said, "Community response has been swift and generous -- it's been amazing."

Perhaps the most touching moment of the service came when Green spoke with the children about the fire.

"Here is the church, here is the steeple -- and open the doors and see all the people," Green said reciting a popular rhyme with his hands.

Green taught them that rhyme to illustrate that all will be well.

"So when you say your prayers at night, you can give thanks to God that all the people were just fine and the church is strong," Green said

As church members question who would do something like this to their beloved church -- and why -- their pastor reminded them that today is a new beginning.

"We may never have answers that satisfy us," Green said. "So lets work on our salvation, lets consecrate our pain, and lets insult the evil by leaving something good in its place."

First United Methodist Church moved its regular 9 a.m. service into the community room, so the Episcopalians could hold their service.

Next week, St. Francis Catholic Church will open up their doors.

Trinity Episcopal will hold Sunday services at other locations until Easter. Leaders say they will then reassess where the church will go from there.

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