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Congregation moves forward after Oregon church fire

SHERIDAN, Ore. – Members of a historic church in Sheridan say they won’t be deterred from worship by the fire that ruined the United Methodist Church.

“The spirit of the church is not contained by four walls,” said the Rev. Carol Swanson

Fire spread through the church, first built in 1875, early Tuesday morning.

Janet and Jerry Smith were among the first parishioners to hear about the fire as news crackled in over their police scanner.

“I said to Jerry, ‘Did they say Methodist Church?’ ” Janet Smith said. “He said, ‘Yeah, 234 N. Bridge St.’

“It’s a huge loss for the community.”

Sheridan Fire Chief Terry Ney said an awning attached to the south side of the church came crashing down under the weight of snow, ripping a gas line and porch light loose. Flames raced up both sides of the south wall.

The fire burned into the attic and flames shot out the church’s east side.

The fire caused an estimated $2 million in damage to the church and contents.

Parishioners picked through the charred guts of their church Tuesday afternoon.

“We got the old Bible out,” Janet Smith said.

“We did not get the piano or the organ out, but we got an antique organ out, a pump organ.”

As Smith was looking over the charred ruins, church member Kathy Eberhart came by.

“Did the rose window make it out?” she asked.

It had.

“Thank God,” she said.

Of course, the congregation survived, too. It won’t be quite the same, but perhaps they’ll meet in the nearby Masonic Hall. They’ll put up some chairs. Life – and church services – will go on.

“We’re moving forward,” Smith said.

“No one was hurt or got killed in this fire.”



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