SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio - The fire was devastating when it ripped through the Euclid Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ on Cleveland's main street in March 2010. Though no one was physically hurt in the fire, which began when a bolt of lightning struck the roof of the building at 9606 Euclid Avenue, the building, more than 125 years old, burned quickly.
Cleveland firefighters were unable to save it, even though they had arrived on the scene within three minutes of the call.
Four years later, the members assembled in their new sanctuary in South Euclid. Renamed South Euclid United Church of Christ, the members bought the property from the Cleveland Catholic Diocese which had closed its Saint Mary Margaret Catholic Church at the corner of Belvoir and Bluestone. The new worshippers renovated a gymnasium on the property and converted it into the new sanctuary. "So the site we are in right now is temporary," said the pastor.
Still, the members celebrated with song and prayers about the property. "This is a true joy to be able to be here today," said Dave Buckle. He smiled as he greeted fellow member Charles Williams. "We came a long way since the fire and I tell you we are really blessed to be here today," added Williams.
Carolyn Smith was in tears as she cried for happiness. "I was very much lifted in the spirit of God," she said as she dabbed a handkerchief to her eyes.
There are several other buildings on the plot of land which will be utilized by South Euclid United Church of Christ. The congregation has plans to build a new sanctuary building on the site.
In the years between the fire and their moving to South Euclid, the members of Euclid Avenue Congregational worshipped in the former First United Methodist Church on Euclid at East 30th Street.
The first sermon, delivered by the Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins, who did not lead the congregation until after the fire, was about imagination. "I think that connected with our situation," said Rev. Jenkins. She spoke on believing that through God, anything was possible.
At the time of the fire in 2010, the church was under the leadership of an interim minister. When she left, Rev. Jenkins was hired to lead the church which met in the rental space. Sunday, she and the members celebrated a new beginning as they thanked God for the journey which brought them all literally out of the ashes of a fire.