Members mourn loss of churchORISKA, N.D — Watching as their church burned to the ground Monday night, one boy whose family goes to Zion Lutheran turned to another young man and asked the thorny question. Why would God let this happen? The other boy’s response, recalled Tuesday by fellow Zion member Joan Wolsky, was an optimistic answer to the enduring theological concern: “He wants us to have bigger Sunday school rooms,” the youth said.
By: By Dave Roepke, Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
ORISKA, N.D — Watching as their church burned to the ground Monday night, one boy whose family goes to Zion Lutheran turned to another young man and asked the thorny question.
Why would God let this happen?
The other boy’s response, recalled Tuesday by fellow Zion member Joan Wolsky, was an optimistic answer to the enduring theological concern: “He wants us to have bigger Sunday school rooms,” the youth said.
The day following a fire that destroyed the 107-year-old church, members were still wrapping their heads around the loss.
Tom Utke, the president of Zion, said while a crowd of congregants gathered at the scene of the fire Monday night favored rebuilding on the same site, it’s too raw to tackle the issue right away. Church leaders will wait until next week to discuss construction plans.
“We’re just giving everybody a week to get their brains right,” Utke said. “There were a lot of people with tears last night.”
Many of the church’s 100 members were too broken up Tuesday to talk about the fire, Wolsky said.
It was a heart-wrenching development for one of the oldest churches in Barnes County, where Wolsky said members had done extensive remodeling in recent years: new roof and siding, refurbished entrance area and freshly sanded floors.
“It took the wind out of my sail, but it didn’t take the soul out of my heart,” she said.
Wolsky said a new set of front doors had just been installed at Zion as part of the ongoing upkeep.
“We got to use them one Sunday,” she said.
Carl Trader, fire chief in the town of 100 people that is 50 miles west of Fargo, said the cause of the fire had not been determined yet on Tuesday. It began at about 5 p.m. Monday and burned four hours, followed by occasional flare-ups throughout the night.
“The building’s totally wasted,” Trader said, with just a charred skeleton of its front still standing.
Utke said insurance adjusters were there to investigate Tuesday, and Trader said state fire officials will likely investigate as well.
No one was hurt in the blaze, which the fire chief said looked to have started along the roof line, perhaps in the building’s attic.
Utke said during a brief few minutes Monday night that when the smoke died down, members raced inside to retrieve church records and photos — a move Trader, also a Zion member, called “mediocre-safe.”
If he could take one more item from the church, Utke said he’d have grabbed the old wooden pump organ.
Utke’s mother played the organ during a good share of Zion’s history, Wolsky said, an intimate connection many of the members had with their place of worship. The grandfather of Wolsky’s neighbor had chiseled the stones used in the church’s foundation.
“Little churches are very important for the people in the area. You don’t just come on Sunday,” she said. “It’s like a family gathering. When you leave, you think about those people.”
Utke said Zion still plans to hold a service Sunday. It might be at the neighboring schoolhouse, but the location hasn’t been set.
Wolsky said she expects it to be highly emotional.
“I don’t think there will be a dry eye,” she said.
Dave Roepke is a reporter at The Forumo f Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.