The Rev. Roy Green, interim rector, said he and others won’t be able to assess the amount of fire, smoke and water damage until investigators complete their work. Besides the two buildings on the Trinity campus, fires were set at a nearby house, two cars and a shed. “Somebody went on a real rampage,” he said, .
Five area fire departments, coming from as far away as LaPine, Redmond and Sisters, fought the blazes.
After the fire was put out, area streets were closed and the buildings were blocked off by crime scene tape, while a team of investigators that included the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as the state fire marshal, the Bend fire marshal and local and state police, surveyed the scene. “The two [church] buildings are clearly a crime scene,” said Green. “They’re covering all the bases.”
He was reluctant, however, to entertain any speculation about a motive for the fire. “I don’t think it’s helpful to have these kind of speculations flying around until we know what we’re dealing with.”
Photos of Trinity, built in 1929 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, showed a dismal sight: much of the roof over the wood-frame building’s west wing was gone and at least one stained glass window was broken. “The roof of the sacristy is basically gone, and the roof over the library, the nursery and the little chapel, that’s all gone,” said Green. “When I came down here at 3:30 am, that’s where I could see flames coming out.” He said he’s worried that the sanctuary, and also the pipe organ, also suffered some level of harm.
Vestry member Bill Brisson, also at the fire scene on Wednesday, said a city inspector will determine whether it’s safe to enter the west side of the historic Trinity church, which bore the brunt of the fire.
Damage to St. Helen’s Hall, appears to be “not as bad, although I think it got some pretty significant smoke damage,” Green said. The former Lutheran church, a newer building, houses Trinity offices, Sunday school class rooms, a Lutheran counseling center, and the Family Kitchen, where 4,500 meals a month are prepared and served to the homeless and needy. An expensive remodel of the kitchen was completed last year.
He said Family Kitchen workers on Wednesday “got together and spoke to Subway, which sent up sandwiches, so when the homeless came to lunch today , except they were served out of a car instead of the kitchen, they didn’t miss a meal. That’s just essential.” Counseling sessions were moved to a room in the Bend Library, just across the street.
This Sunday, Trinity will worship at 9 am at the United Methodist Church, just a couple of blocks to the east. The Methodist church, which is part of the Family Kitchen ministry, will take over preparing and serving meals until St. Helen’s Hall is available again. “We had three offers from congregations to use their space for services this Sunday,” Green said. “The Methodists have said, you can have that time indefinitely. At this point, I’m just grateful to have Sunday covered.” Trinity usually has two Sunday services, with average attendance totaling about 160.
The rector spent much of the day Wednesday comforting parishioners who came to see their fire-ravaged church –and started crying. “This is a resilient congregation. This hurts now but we will come together and be stronger–we are, after all, in the resurrection business. Trinity’s going to be all right–we may even be emotionally, spiritually, stronger. We’re wounded but not broken.”
Green said he expected insurance to cover the cost of the damage.
It was “really beautiful” on Wednesday, to receive a steady stream of messages from people in the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, and from local clergy, he said. “If parishes and individuals who want to help would just commit to praying for us, I think that will mean a lot. It would certainly be a wonderful support if the congregation knew that was happening.” As for churches proposing to take a special offering for Trinity, “that’s very kind. ”
Vestry member Brisson added, “I’m not one to be optimistic but I do believe there is a message and a purpose in this, hard as it is to believe: this church has been severely divided for some time and it’s getting better. This may be, for the lack of a better term, the spark that brings some people back together.”
Post-fire photos by Ginger Sanders and Bill Brisson.
Bend-area news reports: http://bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130306/NEWS0107/130309989&nav_category=
Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon
(541) 386-2091 or (503) 936-8835