South Long Lake church's future on hold after fire | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

South Long Lake church's future on hold after fire

Posted: November 23, 2010 - 5:37pm

It could be months before the future South Long Lake Presbyterian church is known.

The church, located at 7519 Church Road near Highway 25 south of Brainerd, was destroyed by fire Sunday morning. On Monday, Pastor Bob Kemper said the church's future will have to wait until fire investigations, insurance adjustments and other reports are completed.

"Those are the kinds of decision that have to be made before we even have an inkling of where we'll go as a church," Bob Kemper said. "We won't know anything for a while."

For the interim, services will be held at the regular time - 9:30 a.m. on Sundays - at South Long Lake Town Hall.

"The building has burned but the church hasn't," Bob Kemper said. "The church continues to meet."

Brainerd firefighters responded to the burning church about 8 a.m. Sunday, and at that time flames were already coming through the roof. Firefighters were on the scene for more than four hours Sunday, with the Crosby Fire Department called for standby at the Brainerd Fire Hall in case of more fire calls. The building is a total loss, the Brainerd Fire Department reported.

The fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal's office. Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said he and the deputy state fire marshal visited the church Monday but no determination has been made on the cause of the fire. One of the only things that survived the fire was the church's bell, which also survived a 1917 fire at the church, Bob Kemper said. And though his office was demolished, Bob Kemper said he found his first Communion set from his first church - a black box lined with white satin he got 20 years ago. The set had no damage, not even a paper napkin that was in the box, he said.

Bob Kemper and his wife, Sherrill Kemper, said there's been an outpouring of support for their church, including offers from seven other churches for use of their facilities and even from Stunek to use the Brainerd Fire Hall for services. Bob Kemper said he's received more than 30 phone calls along with numerous Facebook posts, e-mails and text messages of support.

"We do feel the love," Sherrill Kemper said.

Bob Kemper said he spent Monday traveling to the homes of church members - something he likes to do multiple times during the year. Monday's visits, though, were somber.

"They're doing OK. Not great but OK," Bob Kemper said.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at matt.erickson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5857.