Please note: This is NOT about the churches burning in St. Louis, MO. This was written years ago when Fond du Lac’s St. Louis Church, a beloved landmark, burned down. This post was prepared and scheduled MONTHS AGO to post in October.
If you watch the videos, you’ll hear that St. Louis Church meant a lot to this town. The flag on Johnson Street nearby appears to be at half-mast.
When the congregation was about to be moved into another building and the church demolished, a local group worked tirelessly to preserve the church.
And it is right across the street from my church! When I went to Pre-Sanctified Liturgy last night, I heard all sorts of stories. The streets were barricaded, but local traffic could get through.
The night of the fire, the police called one of our churchwomen, who was on their contact list. She rushed to our own church to fetch various items from the office and the altar.
She wasn’t supposed to go behind the iconostasis, where the altar is, but she did anyway because it was an emergency.
She had to be allowed in the church by a policeman because they were afraid the fire would spread and/or the other steeple would come down across the street, crushing the buildings there.
Apparently she was alone for a while, because Alliant Energy cut the power (in case the church fell on a nearby power line), so there was no phone service. She didn’t know who to call before she went, because it was very late and the Parish Council President keeps early hours. Our priest lives in another county.
Another churchwoman who lives nearby saw the fire when she took her little dog for a walk. She went into our church, and so did one other person. All three worked that night to salvage what they could.
Our priest said it’s a good thing the wind wasn’t going the other direction, or else the fire would have spread to the nearby houses, the Salvation Army, and our church. Incidentally, I used to go to the Salvation Army to help with the youth group when I went to a different church.
When our priest spoke about it at the end of the Liturgy, I saw a first-generation Greek immigrant who looked on the verge of tears. She is a very pious woman, wears her heart on her sleeve.
Our priest said that 90 years ago, the Greek Orthodox community bought our building from the St. Louis congregation and converted it; it used to be a school.
Last night, there was police tape all the way across the street, blocking off half our parking lot, and a policeman on guard. And the police cars were patrolling Johnson Street, which is right next to Macy St., where the churches are. I kept hearing sirens after church, and it got me jumpy because I’m afraid what’ll happen when the steeple falls.
One guy said at church that he checked behind our altar for soot, and there was none, but there was a lot of dust. One of the ladies said, “If women were allowed back there, there wouldn’t be any dust. You know who made that rule? Men!” 😀
(Of course, I’ve read that the rule is actually, no laity are allowed back there without a blessing–and if a woman has a good reason and the blessing of a priest, bishop or abbess, she can go back there.)
—This was adapted from an e-mail written to my close college friends and Richard on March 21, 2007.