ENGLEWOOD, N.J. -- The sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church in Englewood was destroyed by fire Tuesday night, but The Rev. Richard Hong said Wednesday that wise firefighters "saved the part we use every day" -- including classrooms and offices.
Meanwhile, it was announced that Sunday's Easter service will be held at 11 a.m. at bergenPAC.
"We believe the gym is undamaged," Hong said. "My present hope (based on few facts) is that within a matter of weeks we could worship there; we also believe the church school classrooms are undamaged.
"As a practical matter, once we can reoccupy the offices, life mostly returns to normal," said Hong, who was convening an emergency session meeting Thursday night to plan the holiday weekend. "Lots of churches worship in a 'portable' environment."
The first focus is Easter, he said.
"We go from there," the pastor wrote Wednesday afternoon. "We are a bold, resilient congregation, and by the power of the Holy Spirit we'll be stronger for it."
Firefighters remained at the church throughout the day dousing hotspots , some of which ignited throughout the sanctuary, Hong said. They were smart, he said, and "fought from the firewall out, saving the rest of the building."
A note he wrote to the congregation reads, in part:
"Although the firewall held between the sanctuary and "newer" (built in the 20s and then 50s) wings of the building, water seeped under the fire doors; the firefighters informed us that though undamaged otherwise, the carpets in the rooms closest to the sanctuary are soaked. They also said there was little smoke damage in the rest of the building.
"The offices are furthest from the sanctuary, but I don't expect that we will be able to re-occupy [them] until inspectors certify that everything is safe.
"The building is so large that different wings have different electrical mains; there are even two different plumbing mains. Each wing, as they were built decades apart, is largely self-contained."
Rebuilding the sanctuary is a two-to-three-year-project, Hong said.
The rest of the facility will soon be useable, he said.
"There was a huge historic and sentimental loss in the destruction of the sanctuary," the pastor wrote, "ut my mind works rationally: We lost the part of the facility we use a couple of hours a week and saved the part we use every day."
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