“It’s not the building. It’s what the building does. It’s what the people in the building do,” said Schlak, assistant to the bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod and a guest speaker who gave the sermon during the rededication service.
After the Chartes Cathedral in France had its sixth fire, around 1200, the community excitedly rebuilt the church, Schlak said. The cathedral still stands today, but has become more of a museum than a church, as few people attend its worship services, he said.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran has had a food pantry for many years and provides food to 43 students at five southern Washington County elementary schools, said the Rev. Joe Donovan, who has been pastor at the church since 1978.
The church also holds a vacation Bible school, and provides space for a high school ministry and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, he said.
About 100 parishioners attended Sunday’s rededication service for Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church at 64 S. Main St. The church averages about 125 attendees at Sunday services, Donovan said.
The brick church was undergoing a renovation when, on May 17, 2011, a fire occurred, causing $500,000 in damage, Donovan said.
The fire at first was believed to have been started by an electrical malfunction around an air-conditioning unit, but it actually began in a junction box for lighting in the ceiling, Donovan said. The fire had nothing to do with the renovation work that had been going on at the church, he said.
The original sanctuary renovation was to replace the cloth ceiling with a tin ceiling, install new lighting, replace the carpeting and wooden floor, and paint, Donovan said.
After the fire, all of that had to be done, as well as work to the air conditioning, the sound system, and to the ceiling and lighting for the social hall downstairs, he said.
The church’s Moller organ also was damaged by smoke and soot. Repairs to the organ included having more than 500 pipes, which are not visible in the sanctuary, cleaned and many rebuilt, Donovan said.
Church services returned to the sanctuary on Palm Sunday this past April 1, Donovan said.
Organ repairs were not completed until about two months ago, so the rededication ceremony was scheduled for Sunday rather than having it during the summer, when church attendance is lower, Donovan said.
The original renovation was funded by a $100,000 bequest from the estate of the late John Bast Jr., who was a longtime parishioner and former owner of Bast Funeral Home, Donovan said.
The rest of the renovation, from the fire, was paid for by insurance, Donovan said. The program for the service noted the insurance company is Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co.
Sunday’s rededication service began with a “Festival March,” performed on piano by composer Ian Karraker, according to the program and Karraker.
Karraker, 19, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said he was working on a composition this summer and tweaked it, writing a new ending for the rededication service.
Karraker is a 2011 graduate of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in downtown Hagerstown and is majoring in music at Shepherd University, he said.