Congregation worships outside after Arlington church fire – NBC4 Washington

The congregation that would normally crowd into the pews of the oldest church in Arlington, Va., instead filled the green space in front of the building on Sunday after a fire caused enough damage to close it.

On Friday morning, flames tore through part of Mount Olivet United Methodist, leaving members without a physical place of worship. But leaders say the fire didn’t destroy the true church – it’s where people gather.

“And so, we can gather on the putting green, we can gather in our homes like we did during the pandemic, or we can gather in other buildings,” Associate Pastor Tee Hardy said.

The choir and orchestra arrived early to get used to their new surroundings near a makeshift altar prepared for communion.

A few hours after the fire, it was already clear that the community would come to the aid of the congregation. Volunteers rescued books that were to be distributed to needy families in Arlington.

“It’s a shame that it’s this kind of experience that brings us all together, but it reminds us that we’re all connected,” said Michelle Holmes Cheyney, of the United Methodist Church’s Northern Virginia District.

Even the weather cooperated to make it a pleasant experience. Congregants made the most of it and made sure the children understood the situation and learned about fire safety.

And when the weather isn’t as good, the congregation will make arrangements with a nearby church to hold services indoors.

The extent of the damage is still being assessed. A passerby called 911 when the fire broke out. A quick response minimized the damage.

“It’s going to be a big blow for the northern part of the building. The attic needs to be rebuilt. There is a lot of structural damage. There is a hole in the roof,” Reverend Sara Keeling said.

But no one was injured in the fire or the intervention.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Keeling said.

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