Historic church breaks ground for new beginning

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TOWN OF GRANT, Wis. (WEAU) -- Nearly seven months after a historic church burned down near Colfax, church members are looking forward to a fresh start with a new building.

It was back in January, a leak in an LP gas tank caused an explosion and fire that destroyed St. John's Lutheran Church. The church building would have turned 100 this year.

On Tuesday, church members and Legacy Services Corporation broke ground near the site of the old church off County Highway W in the Town of Grant. A bulldozer began laying out the ground where the new church would be built.

“This is home and this is where we are. It's nice to see the construction starting to happen, it’s getting closer now,” said Pastor John Toppe of St. John’s.

Dirt and rubble is all that's left of where the historic church used to stand, along with a sign and tombstones of those who grew up knowing the church as a town landmark.

“It was a shock. We never expected that to happen but things do happen. But I guess now, we'll kind of put that behind us and we are looking forward to a new building,” said church president Bruce Winget.

Pastor Toppe said it may have been a shock, but God had a plan.

“As a group of Christians, we also understand that God is still in control and working all things for our good. There is that element that helps us get through even a tough time like that. We realize that a building is very important. It holds a lot of history, a lot of things have happened there that connect a group together as a congregation but yet what’s truly lasting and important is the word of God and that doesn’t disappear just because there's been a fire,” said Toppe.

In four months, the 6th generation and generations before them will walk into a $520,000 one-story building, complete with pews and stained glass windows from another church and modern improvements.

“You have to look at the silver lining,” said Winget. “I think the fact that it's handicap accessible. Another real good feature is we're going to be building off the highway now. Before, we parked right on County Road W and the safety factor of being able to get off a parking lot is so much better.”

Mike Adair, the president of Legacy Service Corporation, said he's honored his company will build the community a new tradition.

“This is an exciting day to be a part of such history with a church that's been leading since late 1800s at congregation members' homes and this is very exciting for us,” said Adair.

Adair said the church will still have traditional touches but will keep up with the times.

“There will be some history. I think it brings in a lot of old style but also very modern, very energy efficient,” said Adair.

The church president said in the last seven months, the community has offered donations and support, including Holden Lutheran Church, where St. John’s members will continue to hold worship services until the new building is complete.

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