Christmas Fire Turns Into Christmas Miracle

Source: Living Lutheran

Less than a year after a Christmas fire destroyed Good Shepherd Lutheran in Levittown, New York, the congregation was fundraising to help rebuild their sanctuary.

By selling Christmas trees during the holidays, the congregation hoped to raise $45,000 to put them one step closer to their goal of a new sanctuary. As of mid-December, the 400-member Long Island congregation was close to selling out of the 1,000 trees they had purchased from Canada and Maine.

The holiday Christmas tree sale is an annual program that normally goes to a church slush fund, however, this season’s sale was particularly different. After the fire, the insurance settlement and approximately half a million raised by the congregation and community, the church still faced a $400,000 shortfall.

Pastor Remo Madsen said, “After the fire, we decided immediately to rebuild. We decided to get right back on our feet and take the steps to rebuild on the foundation that survived the fire.”

“We know we wouldn’t be where we are without community support.”

Madsen recalled getting the call Christmas morning from the fire department last Christmas informing him that the congregation’s sanctuary had burned down. According to the investigation, the fire started in the attic when fans from the 1950s shorted out.

Known by the nickname the “church of joy,” Madsen commented the congregation was not going to be deterred. In the aftermath of the fire, worship services continued at the church with members bringing chairs and blankets to worship in the New York winter, until they were able to erect two tents with heaters, for worship and Sunday school. Additionally, a congregant donated a recreational vehicle for Madsen to use as a church office.

“It’s a challenge for the elderly and people with babies and small children to come worship outside in the winter, but we’re making the best of it,” Madsen said. “We even have portable bathrooms.

“What we’ve established here, given that so many churches are failing or closing, makes us realize that we’re called to be a light on Long Island now more than ever. We’re a mainline traditional church, but we’re also modern. Sundays are joy-filled. People leave refreshed and renewed for the week ahead. That kind of thing isn’t found everywhere, and we want to keep it.”

According to the congregation’s January newsletter, they hope to be in their new building by the end of 2022 and credit the holiday Christmas tree sale as a big success. Further, it noted two local Catholic congregations donated $10,000 each, while other donations have come in from other Lutheran congregations across the synod and deanery.

Madsen said, “We really appreciate the sense of the community gathering around us,” he said. “We know we wouldn’t be where we are without community support. We’re looking forward to building a new sanctuary, and it can’t come soon enough.”

Source: Living Lutheran