Church Members Share Memories

By: Natalie Swaby
By: Natalie Swaby

With flames flying high, an early morning fire ate away at Stoughton's Christ Lutheran Church.

"It is hard to see, it is very hard to see," says Dennis Swenson.

For Swenson it is especially hard, not only because he works nightly as the church custodian and worships weekly as a member of the congregation, but also because today is a special one.

"This is my lovely wife," he says as he holds up a framed picture. "Twenty years ago today, August 17th, we got married."

But now this day is a sad one for many church members. As they gazed at the burnt up building they shared memories.

Elaine Wickline remembers, "my three nieces were confirmed here, my brother-in-law passed away and his funeral was here, and my own children were confirmed at this church."

Pastor Scott Geister-Jones says, "there are people in their 70's and 80's that were baptized here, and this is the only church they have ever known."

Many are grieving the loss.

"While we've lost almost everything physical, we have not lost our community of faith, so that is what we have," tells Congregation President, Merle Lebakken as he held back tears.

With that faith, some find the strength to start over.

Jim Conant says, "we'll just pick up the pieces and go and do it all over. That is all we can do."

The church does plan to rebuild. Donations are being collected at Stoughton's Evergreen State Bank, (608) 873-6681; and through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1-800-638-3520.

The church hopes to set up chairs and move this Sunday's service into the parking lot. As for day care services, those have been relocated to First Lutheran, and school, which begins in a couple of weeks, will be held at Covenant Lutheran.

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