A tragic, early-morning fire on Wednesday, March 30, devastated St. James Lutheran Church and School, Northrop. While the sanctuary was lost, the school gym, cafeteria and classrooms were not destroyed. Thankfully, no one was injured or killed in the blaze.
While the congregation and school make plans to relocate to temporary facilities and deal with the insurance-claims process, you can help St. James in the recovery in two ways:
First, keep the congregation and school in your prayers, including the Rev. Robert Trueblood, Principal Sarah Garcia and all of the members, teachers and students.
Second, you can make a gift through the Minnesota South District to benefit them in this time of need. Checks can be sent to this address:
Minnesota South District
c/o St. James Fire Relief
14301 Grand Ave S
Burnsville, MN 55306
The congregation began worshiping at Martin Luther High School in Northrop on April 3 and the school began holding classes at Martin Luther on April 4. The Lutheran Church Charities K9 comfort dogs were present at worship and the first day of school. The school held classes at Martin Luther through April as the classrooms were cleaned up and readied for students.
The fire — started by lightning — destroyed everything in the church and its kitchen as well as in Trueblood’s study in the basement where his “entire library, both printed and digital, is also a total loss,” he told Reporter.
The attached school — with some 50 students enrolled in preschool through eighth grade — suffered water and smoke damage.
St. James members are devastated by the loss of their church building — one distraught member told Trueblood she won’t go into town because she can’t bear to see its charred remains.
“Everyone knows that it is just a building, but there were so many memories that were attached to the building that it’s hard,” Trueblood said.
At the same time, the pastor said he feels “humbled, overwhelmed and thankful” at the response of the LCMS Minnesota South District and LCMS Disaster Response, which together gave the congregation a $50,000 emergency grant to pay “transitional” expenses not covered by insurance, such as alternative-site costs for the school and its lunch program, church and school phone lines, and office supplies and equipment.
Trueblood, who says he doesn’t often get emotional, calls the funds “a godsend” and admits he has been “moved to tears in more ways since [the fire] than I can count. If you could see what God’s people are doing in the midst of this, it is truly a blessing.”
Trueblood added he was overwhelmed contemplating what to preach at the first worship service after the fire. He settled on “Jesus’ words to the disciples: peace be with you.
“We are pushed, but we don’t fall; overwhelmed, but not overcome; and all those other phrases that Paul uses in his letter to the Corinthians [relate] quite simply [that] we have God’s peace now, before and after this event,” Trueblood said, and he asked his fellow LCMS members to “remember us in their prayers as we continue to work through this” in the months ahead.
Parts of this article appeared in a Reporter Online story, written by Paula Schlueter Ross and posted on April 7.