Long Island church bursts into flames on Christmas morning

LEVITTOWN, Long Island (WABC) -- It was a Christmas Morning heartbreak for a Long Island church community after the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Levittown went up in flames.

The damage to the church is significant, but congregants say their spirit is still alive, and they are thankful.

"Upstairs is fairly burnt up, the chairs are destroyed, and water damage everywhere. The rafters are burned as well," said Pastor Remo Madsen.

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Candace McCowan reports Christmas is uniting an East Village community hit hard after a fire gutted an historic church.

Pastor Madsen held a small in-person service on Christmas Eve - all was sound when the last person left around 8 p.m., and then on Christmas Morning, the 70-year-old church on Hempstead Turnpike was seen up in flames.

"The smoke was shooting out of the roof of the building," said Church Music Director Gail George.

It is a close-knit church family that Fritzie Pisarski has been a part of for 15 years.

"This is devastating that I no longer have a home church," said Pisarski.

While the damage inside is significant, the pastor says the building is not a total loss.

"One of the glass windows with children sitting on Jesus' knee is a favorite, and that was saved. That was important to many people," said Pastor Madsen.
There were no in-person services on Christmas Day due to the pandemic, and parishioners say while their beloved building is in shambles, and it is hard to look at, the fire did not break their holiday spirit.

"This is a building. It's a church - but we as the people - we are the church," said Special Events Coordinator Wendy Lantigua.

The church says they are going to build back stronger and better.

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Josh Einiger reports attending church services on Christmas Eve look a lot different this year due to the pandemic.

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