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Congregation Moves Back Home Six Months After Fire

After six months displaced from their church, the parishioners at College Street Congregational are back--right in time for Easter.
BURLINGTON - After six months displaced from their church, the parishioners at College Street Congregational are back--right in time for Easter.

"How fitting is that?" asked Pastor Ken White. "For our building to be a metaphor for hope, and new possibilities."

"Easter is supposed to be a time for rebirth," echoed Bill Harwood, a long-time congregant. "It's spring, resurrection, rebirth, a new beginning, a new start."

The historic steeple was destroyed in October's fire, but much of the rest of the damage has been restored.

"There's a portion of the woodwork that the firemen had to hack with an axe to let the water out of the balcony," said Harwood. "You'd never know that it happened."

Not everything was able to be repaired--the faces from the clock in the steeple were destroyed. They had been hanging since 1870.

34-year-old Alaiksandr Bychkou was convicted in December for setting the fire, and was deported to Belarus.

Tuesday, the community brought everything back inside, from pew cushions to bibles.

"The restoration process was really encouraging to me and it was one of the reasons I wanted to come here to Burlington," said Pastor White. He wasn't the pastor when the fire happened; in fact, his interview for the job was three days before.

"I got this email that said 'we've had a fire, everyone's okay, nobody's hurt.'" He still came to Burlington, and has been leading the church from their temporary home at Temple Sinai in South Burlington.

"Rabbi Glazier this Sunday joined us for our service, and he said something very beautiful. He said remember Christians began as Jews, and you are going from a synagogue where you are Jewish to your church where you will be Christian on Easter Sunday."

Eventually, a new steeple will replace the cap that's been sitting atop the bell tower. Until then, the community is just happy to be home.
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