There's still some painting to be done and the organ can't be repaired until after Easter. But the congregation of Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church celebrated Palm Sunday by marching back into their sanctuary exactly one church-year after fire almost destroyed their 116-year-old church.
Led by a bagpiper -- "Bagpipes are part of the Scotch Presbyterian tradition, you know," explained worship chairman Glenn Jackson -- and children waving palm branches, the congregation marched out of its downstairs fellowship hall, into the street and into the newly restored sanctuary.
Two days before Palm Sunday last year, a lightning bolt started a fire that caused $320,000 worth of damage to the church's sanctuary. Since then, the congregation has been worshiping downstairs in the fellowship hall while work crews undertook the long restoration process.
Part of the church's roof was gone and the interior suffered damage from water as well as the fire. A construction firm and skilled workers did the heavy work of rebuilding, said the Rev. Donald R. Allen, "but the church members have been doing a lot on Saturdays, whenever it got down to where they could help."
The members helped with everything, from cleaning and restaining the water-damaged pews to redesigning the altar area. "A lot of talented people, a lot of dedicated volunteers put in an innumerable number of hours both in planning and executing" the restoration, Jackson said.
Repairs on the organ will have to wait until after Easter because all the dirt- and dust-producing restoration work must be finished first. Plus, Jackson explained, every organ repairman in the area was already booked, fine-tuning every instrument in town for Holy Week and Easter music.
Other churches and community groups in the area, as well as individuals, contributed more than $12,000 to the restoration effort at the 150-member church, Allen said.
Having met their first goal of returning to their sanctuary by Palm Sunday, the congregation is now working to get everything ship-shape for an open house on the first Sunday in May.
"We want to have the opportunity to properly thank all the people who helped us," Jackson said, "especially the fire department. They did a fantastic job of putting the fire out with a minimum amount of damage and getting movable objects out.
"If it were not for their efforts, we'd have had a lot more work to do."