July 16, 2004
Act of nature or sign from God?
Parishioners of a Scottsdale church are questioning the meaning of a lightning strike early Wednesday that burned the sanctuary roof over the altar.
"The children are wondering. The grown-ups are wondering. They are asking the question, ‘Why?’ " said Jonathan Coffey, pastor of St. Anthony on the Desert Episcopal Church at 12290 E. Shea Blvd.
"What I say is, ‘Life presented us with a lightning strike and God is with us in how we handle it.’ "
A home in the West Valley was also struck by lightning generated by the storm.
Sandy Nygaard, spokeswoman for Rural/Metro Fire Department, said lightning struck and ignited the church roof early Wednesday.
Firefighters threw protective tarps over the large cross and altar directly under the fire and moved other religious items from the area, church officials said.
Firefighters did an extensive overhaul of the burned roof to ensure no embers remained, Nygaard said.
Structural damage to the $950,000 sanctuary was estimated at $30,000, she said.
Late Thursday morning, with more tarps covering the sanctuary’s new skylights, Coffey said insurance adjusters already had been there.
"It looks like it will take 60 to 90 days (to repair). We hope to be back in by Thanksgiving," he said.
Meanwhile, the congregation of roughly 800 members will hold services in its parishioner hall, where they gathered before the sanctuary was completed in 1998.
Most of the church auditorium was spared fire damage — especially relative to what it could have been were it not for firefighters, Coffey said.
"Look at this," he said to others inspecting the damage Wednesday, "They saved the flowers . . . "
Other congregations have offered help. "We’ve had Catholic churches and Protestant churches call us and ask if they can take up offerings for us," Coffey said.
"Of course, the money is secondary to the caring and love." He said the church will seek bids on the repair work, which he hopes will start as soon as next week. "We are taking this one day at a time," he said. Susan Snook, associate pastor, said the lightning strike offers the church the chance to pull closer together.
"We look at this as an opportunity to ask God what he wants us to do with this space and where he wants us to go as a congregation," she said.