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“Pastor, get down to the church! It is on fire!”

February 2, 2015 No Comment
Some of the damage to St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Sunderland, England.

Some of the damage to St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Sunderland, England.

ENGLAND – On January 17, 2015, the parish hall of St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Sunderland, England, was vandalized and set on fire.

The fire destroyed the parish hall. The remainder of the building, including the sanctuary itself—altar, paraments, hymnals, organ, and so forth—are covered in a thick oily residue from the soot and smoke. It is estimated that the building will be unusable for three to four months.

The church’s insurance company dispatched a representative and police continue to investigate. The arsonist has not yet been apprehended.

In the days following the fire, Margaret Preus established a GoFundMe campaign to draw attention to the situation facing the congregation in Sunderland, England. “Although we are separated from St. Timothy’s by an ocean and thousands of miles, we are united with them in the body of Christ and in the true confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church,” she writes. “Pray for the saints of St. Timothy’s, that Christ’s work would continue among them and that they would not despair, even in the face of hardship and persecution.”

St. Timothy’s is served by Rev. Steve Edge. The church is a member congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, a sister church of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC). But the Canadian connections go deeper. Rev. Edge was preceded by three graduates from LCC seminaries: one from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton: Rev. Craig Tufts; and two from Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (CLTS) in St. Catharines, Ontario: Rev. Joel Humann and Rev. Mark Smith.

What is more, CLTS’ longtime professor Rev. Dr. John Stephenson was first received into the Lutheran church more at this congregation more than three decades ago. Margaret Preus, who started the GoFundMe campgain, is Dr. Stephenson’s daughter. By the morning of February 2, the GoFundMe account had raised more $4,360 of its $5,000 goal.

Located in the northeast of England, St. Timothy’s is one of only a small handful of Lutheran congregations in the now overwhelmingly secular United Kingdom. “At a time when political correctness and demonic platitudes are being preached from the pulpits of most churches in England, our merciful God has sent Pastor Edge to preach Christ and Him crucified,” Margaret Preus writes.

While their building is unusable, the congregation of St. Timothy’s is meeting in space provided by a local Methodist congregation. “We are grateful for all the offers of support and the kind gestures from so many across the city,” the congregation writes on its Facebook page, “and the messages of encouragement from our friends across the world.”

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With files from Margaret Preus