PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia congregation held services Sunday morning, less than a week after a fire destroyed its steeple. They call themselves the little church with the big heart determined to not let tragedy deter their mission to worship.
Parishioners of Grace Episcopal Church in Port Richmond gathered for Sunday morning services as they always do, but this week was no ordinary one for this faith community.READ MORE: 2nd Street Festival Bringing Beer Gardens, Food Trucks, And Live Music To Northern Liberties For 1st Time In 2 Years
“I cried, I cried,” Shirley Litchendorf, a parishioner, said.
Monday afternoon, just after 4 p.m., lightning struck the steeple of the 125-year-old structure, setting it on fire.
“Years ago they covered up a bell it became a magnet for lightning,” Reverend Brian Rallison, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, said.
Firefighters were able to get the flames under control in about 20 minutes, sparing many sacred items, including the pulpit. But Reverend Rallison says the building suffered significant water damage.
“We’re looking at probably $250,000 to $300,000 worth of damage, maybe more,” he said. “And then another $50,000 to bring everything up to code. It’s an old church.”READ MORE: CBS3 Pet Project: Do Dogs Get Jealous? What You Should Know Ahead Of National Spoil Your Dog Day
As many waited to learn if they’d be able to return inside, they remained resolved.
“You have to remember the church is the people, not the building,” Mary Reitz, a parishioner, said.
With the building cleared as safe to return, they did just that, united as one, grateful to be safe and together.
“I had to be here,” Litchendorf said. “These people were like a family here.”
No one was injured in the fire.MORE NEWS: 9 Wounded In Shooting Outside Cincinnati Bar, Police Say
The building repairs are expected to take several months.