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Arson-damaged Burlington church to open on Easter - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Arson-damaged Burlington church to open on Easter

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Members of the College Street Congregational Church in Burlington have been waiting months for this moment. And with each hour dedicated to the restoration of their building, they're now ready to open their doors to the community. And the timing couldn't be better.

"Yesterday was the day we got our certificate of occupancy because we didn't know until yesterday if we'd be here on Easter or not, so we had this hopeful expectation and it was so neat to get that," Pastor Ken White said.

The steeple of the church was destroyed in October after Aliaksandr Bychkou torched it. He later admitted to setting the fire. He said voices told him to do it. He was then deported from the United States back to his home country of Belarus.

Now, after $2 million in renovations to replace the steeple, repair water damage and update the sanctuary, the congregation is pleased with the outcome.

"This is fabulous, this is rebirth, this is Easter. This is how the church should've looked, but since 1867 it's had some aches and pains," said Bill Harwood, a church member.

"There are definitely nice things that have come out of it-- silver linings. The wood up on the floor of the sanctuary is one such," said Rachel Cosgrove, a church member.

Pastor White has only been with the church a few months and looks forward to his first service in the sanctuary. The hard work has been a labor of love and an opportunity for him to get better acquainted with his new congregation and the community.

"As much as this was a loss for our church, it helped the church remember that we are the church and also reminded us that we have a call to show love to our neighbors just as they have shown love to us," White said.

The congregation spent time at First Congregational Church and Temple Sinai until restorations were complete. Throughout the process White says parishioners have learned a lot.

"I think one of the things that will come out of this is a renewed energy to invest and share and give back to the community," he said.

And as the Easter holiday is upon us, members of the church look forward to service in their restored church and new beginnings.

Easter service will be held Sunday at 10 a.m.

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