‘We still look to Christ’: Faith community grieves loss of torched St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

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BEECHER, Ill. – One day after a famed church in the Far South suburbs went up in flames, a pastor and surrounding community members are coming to grips with the loss.

Around 2 p.m., Sunday, nearly a dozen fire departments responded to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Beecher following reports of a massive blaze. Fire crews eventually extinguished the blaze but the historic church was heavily damaged.

Reverend Michael Stein on Monday said he was in disbelief as he looked back on what little of his church was left.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “The 150 years of weddings and funerals and baptisms and all of that are gone.”

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Officials told WGN the fire may have started in the steeple. At the time of the blaze, the church was hosting its annual Oktoberfest.

On Monday, gatherers tried to salvage the remains. Among the ashes, they found a chalice unscathed by the fire.

“The original chalice from 150 years ago. It just fell out the side and was over in the rubble and I jumped in and grabbed it,” Stein said.

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Perhaps the find is a symbol of hope. While the building is gone, the church remains and looks to rebuild. Despite the devastating loss, Rev. Stein used the incident to remind people that new life arises from the ashes of despair.

“That’s just a reminder that we’ll continue,” he said. “This isn’t the end of the chapter. It’s a dark chapter and it’s a sad one and we mourn it and grieve it. But we still look to Christ.”

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