Outpouring of support for historic Englewood church destroyed by fire

Michelle Charlesworth Image
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
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Michelle Charlesworth has the latest on a historic Englewood church destroyed by fire.

ENGLEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) -- There has been an outpouring of support for members of a historic church in Englewood, New Jersey, that went up in flames Tuesday night.

The flames broke out just after 8 p.m. at 150 E. Palisade Ave., at the First Presbyterian Church of Englewood.

Flames ripped out of the 150-year-old church, shattering century-old stained glass and scorching hand-carved wooden support beams that have both sheltered a congregation for generations.

"I feel for the people who were baptized here, who were married here, whose parents had their funerals here to see that destroyed is not an easy thing to watch. But the congregation is people, so as long as the people are fine, the church is fine," said Rev. Richard Hong, the pastor.

The church was built in 1870. The pastor says there was no fire damage to the bottom floor or the basement, but those are now under several feet of water from the firefighting efforts.

Hong had said he was ready to worship in a parking lot over Good Friday and Easter if need be, but it turns out he won't have to.

A local church will opens its doors for the Good Friday services, and Easter Sunday services will be held at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood at 11 a.m.

"We've been really grateful for the outpouring of support so we've had offers from churches, synagogues, civic organizations to use their space as we need so that's been tremendously gratifying," said Hong. "My phone has been ringing, they've been calling to step up and say what can we do."

He pointed out that it makes his sermon easy to rewrite for this Sunday, because it is all about resurrection.

When they arrived, firefighters surrounded the chapel portion of the building, but the fire burned into the night.

Shara Siegler said she walked by the church five minutes earlier. "There was a little small window where you could see orange. We knew it was a fire, and then, like two seconds later, the windows shattered," Siegler said.

"It's just full of meaning and significance and the interior of the church and the chapel, there's a chapel that's right here, and then the church with the huge beams and the beautiful glassware, it's just incredible," said a teacher at the school who is retiring after this year.

"It draws a lot of people from the community, the congregation is made up of so many different types of people, and it's super. It's a very important part of the whole town," she said.

What caused the fire is under investigation.