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Church damaged by arson holds first Sunday services - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Church damaged by arson holds first Sunday services

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -  A Burlington church congregation is back home after a devastating fire. After months of repairs and restorations the Church was able to re-open its doors on Easter Sunday. Members say the road to recovery has been one with many silver linings.

It has been 6 months -- since the College Street Congregational Church has been filled with singing, laughter, and members of the church. 

 "We joined around 1980, this building place means a lot to me. And I've been on the buildings and grounds committee most of those 30 years. I love this building, it's been emotional for me this morning. It's been great," said Dr. Nick Hardin, one of the Restoration Committee members. 

Back in October the steeple was torched by arsonist Aliaksandr Bychkou. The Belarus native says voices told him to ignite the church. Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire, but not before it claimed the historic steeple and caused more than a million dollars in damages.

 "The fire itself was traumatic. But the process ever since the fire has actually been very uplifting," said church member Elaine Hubert.

Sunday marks the first service held in the church since the fire. For months, the congregation was welcomed to worship in a South Burlington Temple. Pastor Ken White says for this day to come on Easter was a very special gift.

Pastor Ken White said, "This building is a metaphor for Easter, it's a metaphor for new possibilities, new hope."

But getting to this joyous day was no easy task. Hundreds of hours and half a million dollars later, which included 100-thousand dollars in donations, the church was fixed up from top to bottom.

 "To come and see the whole finished product -- I mean the paint, everything just glows. All the wood has been polished, the floors refinished, all the damage has just disappeared to this beautiful beautiful sanctuary," said Hubert.

Dr. Hardin said, "I care about the building so much and to see it come back, and find that everybody's happy with the results too is a really good feeling for me."

A day of celebrating a special holiday with an important move back to College Street. But Pastor White says whether they finished renovations by Easter Sunday or not, the congregation would still be together. 

"The truth is, easter is easter. And whether we were in here or not, we are going to proclaim Christ has risen, and we are going to sing Hallelujah. And so it is really the icing on the cake but Easter is Easter," said Pastor White.
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