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North Suburban News

Wakefield Congregation Looks to Move Forward After Fire

Nov 05, 2018 06:24PM ● By Katie Lovett

WAKEFIELD – Two weeks after a historic and beloved church in downtown Wakefield was destroyed in a7-alarm fire, the interim pastor of First Baptist Church says the faith community has been welcomed into a temporary space while they assess how to move forward.

Rev. Norman Bendroth said the church saw a larger than normal congregation at their service  at First Parish Congregational Church in Wakefield.

“They’ve been very gracious and hospitable and welcomed us with open arms,” Bendroth said. While the normal Sunday congregation is about 40 parishioners, they saw 61 people fill the pews last week.

For the past few days, Bendroth said the shell-shocked community has been experiencing the same reaction one has when they lose a loved one and tending to all the immediate details – where they could meet for worship, where they could set up office space, and how they could communicate to their congregation.

While everyone is wondering if and when the church will rebuild, Bendroth said at this point, “it’s really premature to think about next steps.”

Right now, the church is still working with the insurance company to see how much funding will be available to use for a rebuild, he added.

The large, towering building that once stood in the downtown, however, will not return. Instead, Bendroth said, the church has “all kinds of possibilities” to weigh. Do they build a smaller-scale church? Do they create a ministry center or community center?

“The opportunities are limitless right now,” he said.

The church must also consider its aging congregation and “what it means to be a church in the 21st century” as it makes plans, Bendroth said.

“It’s not your parent’s church anymore,” he added. “We have to be very thoughtful and discerning.”

In the coming months, church leaders will listen to the “variety of voices and opinions” on the issue while also deciding what qualities it seeks in a permanent new pastor to lead the congregation.

Over the past week, First Baptist has received messages of prayers and support from all over the town, the region -- and the country, Bendroth said.

The Wakefield Clergy Association organized a prayer service, local banks have set up accounts for donations, and a GoFundMe page has raised $18,630 of its $50,000 goal.

A meals program for the community that operated out of First Baptist has relocated to First Parish, as well. Bendroth said officials at Tall Spire Preschool, which operated out of the church basement, are working on plans to find a temporary space for the immediate future while they then seek out a permanent location.

Public school districts and other churches have offered temporary space, he added.

GoFundMe page has also been create for the school. As of Monday night, the fund had raised $17,625 of its $20,000 goal.

In an email sent on Friday, school director Kathy Relihan said she hopes to have more of an update shortly.

“At this time we are making every possible effort to secure a space to relocate to as quickly as possible. Hopefully within the next week we will have more definite answers,” she wrote.

In a message posted on the school website, educators expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support they have received.

“In this difficult time, we are standing strong together, as a staff and as a community,” it reads. “We are a family and we love each and every one of you. Thank you for your continued support.”

In this trying time, Bendroth said it’s important to remember the mission of the church.

“It’s a cliché, but the church is not a building, it is a body of people, the body of Christ,” he said.


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