Burlington church ready to serve again after arson

A Burlington church is ready for a real revival this Sunday. That’s after a 2007 arson destroyed the First United Methodist Church, 421 Washington Street.

With the culprit in prison, a caring congregation guided the estimated $12 million project.

Stone walls may stand for obstacles.

“I was just shaking my head,” Rev. Mike Orthel recalled. “No way we can rebuild this.”

But the stone walls at Burlington’s First United Methodist Church also stand for strength.

“Realizing we’ve finally come to this point in our journey,” he continued.

The congregation of more than 400 is ready to unveil the rebuild during Sunday’s 9 a.m. service. Pastor Orthel is set for the sermon.

“My message will be basically — we’ve come this far, but this isn’t the end,” he said.

It’s just the beginning for a congregation dating back to the 1830’s.

Arson destroyed the historic church in April 2007. Only the stone walls were left standing. It became a test of resilience and reality.

“The fire was a deep spiritual blow to so many that made this their church home,” he said.

Fast forward more than six years. Children help to set up a new nursery. Happy voices restore life to the building.

“Like everyone that faces a difficult time, you come out stronger,” recalled Kathi Linn, the church’s education director.

Technicians were installing a new pipe organ on Wednesday. It’s a complicated project from start to finish.

Not far away, workers were busy with finishing touches. That includes everything from stained glass windows to the hard wood floor.

“Everything you see is new,” he said.

It’s a fresh start for the church after incredible challenges and obstacles. The congregation will finally be home again.

“It’s going to be a time of gathering, a time of celebration and a time of joy,” Linn concluded.

Within those stone walls, home again at First United Methodist Church in Burlington.

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