DENHAM SPRINGS — Congregants of the St. Francis Episcopal church along with their friends and guests are invited to join in the celebration of the re-dedication and consecration of the new church at 726 Maple St. at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The services will be led by the Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson Jr., bishop of the Diocese of the Episcopal Church of Louisiana. The church’s vicar, the Rev. Dan Krutz, will officiate at the ceremonies. Local and area elected officials also will be present for the services that will mark the church congregation’s return from the historic flood in August 2016.
Jim Bruce, who has served as the project manager for the rebuilding of the St. Francis Episcopal Church, said that on Aug. 13, 2016, about 2 feet of water inundated the church campus.
“All of our buildings flooded. After the flood, the buildings were gutted, and we salvaged what we could, which wasn’t very much," he said. "A couple of notable things we lost were our pews and our beautiful organ. Unfortunately, the homes and businesses of the majority of our congregation were also flooded."
Bruce said the church business needed to continue and to move forward, so the church secretary operated out of the home of one of the congregants. Members of the First United Methodist Church of Denham Springs allowed members of St. Francis Episcopal Church to hold Sunday services in their facility.
“Because of the vision of Father Mark Holland, our priest in charge at the time, and the tenacity of our vestry, we decided to turn this tragedy into a blessing," Bruce said. "The blessing came in the form of deciding to build the new church that we had been talking about for 40 years."
A step-by-step recovery process followed with the congregation rebuilding the campus in phases. The first phase was the rebuilding of the administration building, Cameron Hall. Construction of that facility, named after the Rev. David Cameron, who served the congregation a number of years ago, began in June 2017 and was completed in September a year later.
Completion of that project was followed by the rebuilding of the parish hall, which began in November 2017 and was completed in January.
“When that building was finished, the congregation then began holding our Sunday services there until the new church could be built,” Bruce said.
Construction of the church started in May. Bruce said the congregation is excited to be able to hold its services in the new church.
“Our new church is beautiful, and it fulfills a long-held dream. We had been talking about a new church for years and while the flood was most unfortunate, it led us to turn the tragedy into a blessing," he said. "We now have the new church for which we had long been yearning. Our re-dedication and consecration will be a happy and blessed day for our congregation."
Bruce said that with the flood insurance monies, donations from the diocese and churches from throughout the nation and individuals, the congregation was able to raise $700,000 toward the rebuilding program. Additionally, a three-year Capital Campaign began in early January with a goal of raising an additional $300,000, was started. Of that total, $160,000 already has been pledged. Bruce said the goal at the end of the campaign is to pay off the loan and be debt free.
“It has been an exciting journey thus far, and we are only beginning," he added. "We have much to thankful for as we look ahead to a new chapter in the history of our church."
St. Francis Episcopal Church traces its history back to 1952 when 11 members of the faith came together to begin holding services in a private home. Within a year, the group began holding its services in the First Methodist Church as the congregation continued to grow.
The congregation was admitted to the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana in 1953. At about the same time the group rented a small house on the corner of Railroad Avenue and Main Street and continued to meet there until land was donated at 726 Maple St. The Parish Hall was built in 1974 and became the site of the congregation’s services until the church was build. In 2012, the church celebrated its 60th anniversary and was looking forward to another anniversary celebration in 2016 when the floods came.