PLOVER, Wis. – A 150-year-old Bible, which has survived two major church fires in its lifetime, is serving as a symbol of strength and perseverance to members of a Wisconsin church.
The Springs – Your United Methodist Community in Plover was severely damaged Monday in a fire.
“It’s a great testament to our faith that stands strong even in the midst of this (fire),” said pastor Tim O’Brien.
Firefighters were able to recover the Bible, which was displayed in a glass case at the time of the fire, said Yvonne Chojnacki, director of administration and mission for The Springs. The Bible also survived a fire at the former St. Paul’s Methodist Church in downtown Stevens Point, which burned down in the mid-1900’s, O’Brien said.
More than 50 people gathered Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of the fire-ravaged church. Church members shared memories of Sunday services, weddings, baptisms, youth groups and service projects that occurred inside of the church, which was constructed in 1964, according to Portage County Historical Society.
Trisha Moody, 44, of Nekoosa, said she has a long history with the church. Growing up, she attended youth groups and participated in the youth choir and Christmas programs. She was baptized and confirmed in the church and also had her son baptized there. As an adult, she said she taught Sunday school.
“I’m overwhelmed with feelings,” said Moody. “I have lifetime friendships that happened because of this church.”
The Springs merged with St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Stevens Point in 2014 and the two congregations now function as one church. The Plover location has about 50 members, Chojnacki said.
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O’Brien, who has been pastor of The Springs and St. Paul’s for the last eight months, said the whole experience has been a bit of a shock.
He said the church’s board of trustees will need to evaluate the future of the Plover building, but is glad people still have the option to attend services at St. Paul’s.
Emergency crews responded to a report of smoke coming from the church Monday morning. Plover Deputy Fire Chief Ken Voss said light smoke was showing when they arrived, but heavy smoke and flames developed shortly after. The building is likely a “total loss,” he said.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, Voss said.
Tonya Kowalski of Stevens Point said she has been a member of St. Paul’s for 21 years and said she believes this will only make their church community stronger.
“People make the church,” Kowalski said, “not the building.”
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