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Zion Lutheran fire is not the end of the story

Zion Church in Finland is gone. On Saturday night it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. A friend called us on Sunday to tell us the sad news. I could hardly believe it and couldn't picture it, so we drove into Finland to see it.

I've never been one to show up at the scene of a disaster. Somehow that always seemed callous or unfeeling - something my mother taught me, I'm sure. But I had to see what had happened to the spunky little church where I had gone with Lila on occasion, to services, many meetings, lectures and gatherings. Years ago when we had a family reunion at our cabin. We arranged to have a dinner served to our group at the church. It was a memorable occasion that my cousins still talk about. Zion's congregation was small. Pastors came and went -- but the church itself seemed to have some sort of strength and resilience through it all.

On Sunday, the building was a terrible thing to see. It was, truly, burned to the ground. A few partial brick or concrete block walls still stood. The metal roof buckled over it all like an ominous wave. The kitchen, newly updated and enlarged, was now the site of blackened and twisted metal appliances. The beautiful new cabinets were, of course, gone. I had followed the kitchen renovation over the past several years and knew something about the effort that had gone into it.

A volunteer fireman, still at the scene, told us that six communities sent their fire fighters and equipment to try to save the church. He described the sight as the steeple caught fire and the cross came down. Still smoldering were warped metal file cabinets filled with papers. Everything that could burn was gone, but a stack of folding chairs was easy to pick out.

Zion Church was built in the 50s, with an addition built in the 60s. It was a solid hub of activity, religious and secular, in Finland. It served the community well. A whole lot of history went down when the building did.

So,what happens now in Finland? There will be the required investigations, assessments, evaluations. Huge amounts of rubble and memories will be hauled off to be dumped somewhere. But I can't help but believe that, sometime in the next few years, a new Zion Church will be built. Finland is a community too dedicated, too gritty, too solid to let this fire be the end of the story.