ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — When a massive fire consumed the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church in Englewood in March, the Rev. Richard Hong said the congregation lost a building — but not their faith.
"Even as we go worship in different sights, our attendance has gone up compared to what it was this time last year," Hong told Daily Voice. "It seems people are making that extra effort to stay connected since the fire."
The Daily Voice joined Hong as he toured the burned out shell of the sanctuary of the 146-year-old church recently. During the tour, Hong's tone wasn't sad, it was hopeful.
"The fire is a massive disruption that we weren't planning, but sometimes disruption takes you out of your routine and opens up possibilities you hadn’t considered," he said.
The cleanup of the sanctuary, chapel, gymnasium and classrooms will be completed within the next two weeks. Afterwards, walls will be repainted and new carpet will be put in.
By mid-June, Hong expects to resume worship services at First Presbyterian Church inside the gymnasium.
The sanctuary itself will lie dormant for the foreseeable future while the church fields proposals for a new design. Hong estimates that reconstruction on the sanctuary won't begin for another 18 months.
He expects things to be back to normal sooner than that.
"Once we are worshipping on-site again I think everybody will feel a lot better," Hong said.