Church Congregation Reeling From a Crushing Fire Ushers in New Era

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Parishioner Heidi Phelps still shudders at the scene: the day her church, her proud, strong standing spiritual home was reduced to ashes.

"It was horrible, just horrible. You could see the smoke for miles, around just to see it go up in flames, it was heart wrenching," Phelps said.

But 16 months after the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John in Sycamore nearly burnt to the ground, congregation members rebuild from the ground up. With shovels in hand, the church family kicks off the construction process, a process members believe will usher in another 65 years of worship, and memories.

"It's been many, many hours of meetings, and there's been so many people putting their hands into this and these meetings and task force, when you finally get to the point where you're breaking ground and you can see something happening," Roger Loptien said.

Church leaders praise their surrounding community for reaching out - offering schools, gymnasiums and cafeterias - to keep services alive and well, while their church was down and out.

"The city of Sycamore has opened their doors to us, and helped us out and contributed money to the building project, and we want to give back to the city of Sycamore. We want to build the congregation around the city," Loptien said.

And through the groundbreaking, members like Phelps say Sunday is both the celebration of a fresh start, and a reflection of a church's proud and storied past.

"It's wonderful. I think it's a new beginning and there's lots of promise to do God's work in the future," Phelps said.

A bright future for one Stateline congregation, who emerged from the smoke and shock, with a new burning in their hearts, and a new church construction underway.