Pastor Vows To Rebuild After Fire Tears Through Historic Englewood Church

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) —  Although a massive fire ripped through an historic church in New Jersey, the pastor says worshippers will have a way to celebrate Easter.

The First Presbyterian Church of Englewood will have to rebuild after a three-alarm fire tore through their sanctuary, spreading to the roof just after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The emergency call came in from a quick thinking 12-year-old who was visiting her grandparents across the street.

“It was fire everywhere…you could see the bricks falling down, it was crazy,” Shira Siegel said.

The Tuesday night blaze burst through stained glass windows, surrounded a newly restored organ, and engulfed the roof.

“Needle point cushions on the pulpit that were made by women 100 years ago. It took generations of families to build this church,” Karen Neus said.

The congregation was founded in 1860, making it the oldest church in Englewood.

“You can’t put it into words how devastating it is, but at the same time you know it’s just bricks,” said parishioner Lori Dutta.

“It’s sad to see a piece of history go up in flames,” Pastor Richard Hong  said. “I think of all the babies that have been baptized here, all the couples that have been married here and to see that place not be there, will be traumatic for a lot of people.”

Despite the loss, Hong has found a lesson in the wreckage.

“We have so many options this Sunday for Easter,” Hong told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris.

On Wednesday morning, the roof was still smoldering.  Holy Week services have been halted for now, but not for good.

“Easter will take on a new meaning it’s a day when we celebrate resurrection,” Hong said. “There could be no more appropriate theme than resurrection for a church that has suffered this loss.”

Hong said a local church and school have offered to share their space with the congregation so they could hold Holy Week and Easter services.

“The spirit of chipping in is the spirit of Englewood,” Patrick O’Neil, Senior Warden, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church said.

Firefighters and investigators returned to the church on Wednesday to determine the cause of the blaze, but at this time it does not appear suspicious.

No one was inside the church at the time. The sanctuary was being painted earlier in the day Tuesday.

The fire chief said it is no longer safe, Doris reported.

A pre-school and kindergarten classrooms attached to the church are separated by a firewall. They were virtually untouched.

The congregation said they are ready to rebuild.

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