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Congregation unites for candlelight vigil

In the aftermath of fire, Living Savior Lutheran Church models grace
by: Jaime Valdez Living Savior Lutheran Church Rev. Nathan Brandt blesses his church members at the conclusion of a candlelight vigil Lenten service that was held in the parking lot of the church.

Umbrellas dotted the church grounds in Tualatin, holding fast under a thin blanket of snow that had been steadily forming over the night.

A snow just like it had also fallen two days prior, on the morning Living Savior Lutheran Church was set ablaze by an act of arson.

Now, all that church members had to shelter them from the wet Oregon weather was the canopy Pastor Nathan Brandt was speaking under. And for the hundreds who could not fit under the canopy, the umbrellas served just fine.

The church lawn was the sight of a candlelight vigil Wednesday night held by members of Living Savior. Prior to Monday's fire, the church had already been holding midweek services in honor of the Season of Lent. This Wednesday, though the service was colder and damper than usual, much went on as it had merely a week ago.

"Someone asked me, 'Nathan, have you cried?,'" said Brandt as he addressed the crowd. "I said, 'Yes, on the way home today.' I couldn't hold it in anymore. I cried almost all the way home. Shoot, I just got the place broke in."

Thanks to Brandt's joking tone, the last comment drew chuckles from the crowd.

The damaged sanctuary had been rebuilt only three years ago.

Brandt offered up an anecdote about the planting of the trees surrounding the church grounds, years ago. As the newly planted trees were secured with a rope on either side to make sure they stood tall and straight, someone warned the pastor not to tie the strap too tight.

"The wind has to be able to stress the tree, or the roots will never grow strong," Brandt said. "I got news for you folks: You're in for wind your whole life. The wind proves to do those trees a great good.

"I am fully convinced that this event will turn us into one of the strongest congregations you can imagine."

The canopy, which had been illuminated by very little light, began to glow as flame was passed from candle to candle, and those present joined together in song. A cross that had been salvaged from the church altar stood in the middle of the tent.

Prayer requests were offered up by the pastor and church members. The first request was for the families of the boys who were responsible for setting the fire, and for the boys themselves.


Read more about the fire at Living Savior Lutheran Church

"First off, it's very sad, very disappointing to know it was not an accident," said 20-year church member David Smith, following the service. "But it struck me that even though we think of it as something horrible, it's no different than God forgiving us for stuff we've done. God's mercy is for us and for them.

"It was good to be able to come here tonight. It felt like the healing is beginning."