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Hawk Creek Lutheran plans 'celebration' Sunday

Tom Cherveny / Tribune Dylan Dambroten, from left, Gregg Dambroten and Ryan Dambroten walk Wednesday evening in the basement of what was the Hawk Creek Lutheran Church in rural Sacred Heart. They are among area residents who came to see the remains of the fire-damaged church as work began to raze and remove it. 1 / 3
Tom Cherveny / Tribune Rubble remains Wednesday at the rural Sacred Heart site of Hawk Creek Lutheran Church where work got underway to remove the fire-damaged structure. Lightning struck the church July 23.2 / 3
Tom Cherveny / Tribune Wyatt Dambroten on Wednesday evening looks over what remains of the Sunday school building at Hawk Creek Lutheran Church in rural Sacred Heart. Work got underway earlier in the day to begin razing and removing the fire-damaged church buildings in Renville County. 3 / 3

SACRED HEART—Atop the ashes of its beloved church building, which burned down weeks ago from a lightning strike, the Hawk Creek Lutheran Church congregation will gather Sunday for one last "celebration of life."

The congregation has unofficially moved forward with talks to rebuild a new church in the same spot.

"As we speak, they are working on demolishing the building," Pastor Daniel Bowman said Wednesday afternoon. "Or, what's left of it."

But many members have said they still need closure for the 140-year-old building that held years of memories.

The 10 a.m. service Sunday, which the church is calling a "celebration of life," will in some ways be like a funeral.

But there will also be an emphasis on the "celebration" part, including several baptisms. Bowman said that is not contradictory to the sadness church members are feeling.

"The whole symbol of baptism is dying to our sins and rising to a new life, and that's what we want to do," Bowman said. "We want to bury the old church and pray that God will raise up a new church in its place."

The church was destroyed by fire July 23 after it was struck by lightning in an early morning thunderstorm. Several fire departments worked for hours to extinguish the blaze.

Church members may physically bury some of the ashes on Sunday, Bowman said.

Guests from the community, as well as members of sister church Rock Valle in Echo, will be in attendance at the service. And at noon, the Sacred Heart Fire Department will host a picnic meal.

A freewill offering will be collected for the meal. So far, there have not been any large-scale fundraising efforts for the church.

One little girl, Raegyn Glady, wants to change that. Bowman said she promised to run a lemonade stand at the Sunday service, to take donations for the rebuilding process.

"It's our young children that are leading the rebuilding effort," Bowman said. "We thought it would be very appropriate to lead the way."

The congregation hopes to have final figures from its insurance company by Sept. 18. That's when church members will meet officially as a congregation to decide when and how to rebuild.

They are also planning for a prayer service Saturday night, hoping for help from a higher power.

"That prayer service will be to ask God's direction for our future," Bowman said.

Some expenses from the fire have already been reimbursed. But the final determination of the property as a total or partial loss has not been finalized.

Church services are continuing to be held at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday for the indefinite future at neighboring Rock Valle church.

Bowman says he has seen real camaraderie between the two congregations.

For example, before the Hawk Creek fire, congregation members there built a brand-new playground.

But after moving to Rock Valle, they realized that church's 20-year-old equipment needed repairs.

So Hawk Creek church members went to Rock Valle last week and volunteered their time to make repairs on the playground.

"This is the kind of spirit we have seen," Bowman said. "So for all the tragedies we've had, the blessings of God keep coming down, and give us hope and give us joy."