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Living Savior comes home


Lutheran church holds rededication ceremony for its rebuilt sanctuary

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Living Savior Lutheran Church Pastor Nathan Brandt is thankful that he will lead church services in the newly remodeled sanctuary. Living Savior returns to the church after a fire in March destroyed portions of the building. A tour of the newly remodeled Living Savior Church sanctuary shows a modern, airy interior illuminated by natural light. There is no trace of fire or water damage. Curved, cushioned pews form an intimate semi-circle around the altar, and the overall atmosphere in the church is one of freshness.

Seven months after a devastating fire claimed the church’s main building and damaged the church beyond use, the 614 members of the Missouri Synod Lutheran church are preparing to move back into this sanctuary for worship services. But Pastor Nathan Brandt thinks he can still smell just a hint of smoke.

A rededication ceremony will be held on Sunday at 10 a.m. in the sanctuary at Living Savior Lutheran Church, 8740 S.W. Sagert St, in Tualatin.

The sanctuary was a mere three years old when two teenage boys from Tualatin started a fire in the adjacent preschool and office building on the morning of March 19. The juveniles were attempting to cover their tracks as they searched for money, and the arson caused around $800,000 of damage to the sanctuary alone.

Since then, the boys have been put on a five-year probation and given an 11-year sentence with the Oregon Youth Authority respectively.

by: JAIME VALDEZ - TVF&R firefighters work on extinguishing a March 19 fire at the Living Savior Lutheran Church in Tualatin. “It’s very devastating,” said Pastor Brandt. “We’ve been holding those families and those boys in our prayers. It’s sad how adversely I’m sure it’s effecting their lives.”

But the fire damage was a profound loss to a congregation just settling into a permanent place of worship.

“I think you really go through the stages of grief,” Brandt said. “And certainly you go through periods of anger. And frustration, and bitterness.”

Still, he says the church rallied and very soon found “many open hands and hearts and minds” in the community. To date, Living Savior has collected about $75,000 in donations from sister congregations and individuals. Tualatin Presbyterian Church welcomed younger members of the congregation for confirmation classes, and Triumphant King Lutheran Church welcomed preschool students. The church’s building committee has been meeting regularly at the La-Z-Boy Furniture corporate offices.

And the congregation hasn’t missed a single service. For the past seven months members of Living Savior have been meeting in the Tualatin Elementary School gymnasium. They’re perhaps more suited to a folding chairs-style meet-up than most, Brandt said.

“Prior to building this (sanctuary), this congregation for 30 years had worshipped in a multi-purpose space,” he said. “And so they set up chairs for worship every week, which is what we had to do at the gym. It was kind of like déjá vu for this church. They were used to setting everything up. That wasn’t such a big change for them as far as the facility goes.”

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Living Savior Lutheran Church Pastor Nathan Brandt listens to a new organ play music in the remodeled sanctuary.Meanwhile, Lake Oswego architect Dennis Mitchell Thompson, who drafted plans for the original Living Savior sanctuary, returned to aid in the restoration.

Planning for the future

Even with the sanctuary completed, there remains a significant cost for Living Savior to simply reconstruct, Brandt said. By law the church must follow current building codes, and a shortfall in its insurance policy means the church is at least $150,000 short. For that reason, they’re viewing the sanctuary and the fellowship facilities as two separate projects.

Fortunately, reconstruction has allowed for a few upgrades. A top-of-the-line electronic pipe organ, manufactured by Hillsboro-based Rodgers Instrument Corporation, sits just stage right of the altar. Its placement at the front of the church was a conscious decision to give the organist greater connection to the congregation, Brandt said.

The more dramatic changes will come when the fellowship building is replaced. Brandt hopes to make it a two-story structure with classrooms upstairs and a larger meeting venue on the first floor. While the church can legally hold 250 people, the old fellowship building held 100 fewer.

For the time being, there is a fenced-off concrete slab where the fellowship building once stood. Brandt points to a puddle to mark where his office used to be. While Living Savior focuses on fundraising efforts, a large section of the church’s exterior remains unfinished, indicating what will someday become an interior wall once again.

All told, Living Savior’s ideal building plans will cost nearly $3.5 million. In early December, the church will collect pledges from its members in order to gage its budget for rebuilding. Brandt remains optimistic but also pragmatic, and admits the church may need to revise its construction plans.

Member Kathryn Van Hecke describes March’s unfortunate incident as a chance

“What we said is, if we’re going to do that, let’s go ahead and incorporate a second phase,” Van Hecke said. “Let’s just move the whole thing forward and raise money now, so we can step away from it for years and years.”