Ashes to arches

By Jessica Kalin

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church will build a new home on nearly 16 acres of land north of Sycamore to replace their church that burned down in February.

The fire claimed the 66-year-old church at 327 S. Main St. Feb. 9, leaving the congregation a shell of the stone building and without a space in which to worship.

A groundbreaking for the new church has yet to be announced.

Local businesses, the community and surrounding churches have pulled together to support St. John Evangelical.

“Spirits are high,” the Rev. Donald Phelps said.

Services right now are held at Johnson Controls, 1701 Bethany Road, Sycamore.

“It has been working out. This is certainly not something we hope to have permanent, but we are so appreciative,” Phelps said.

Other area churches have donated space to hold meetings, and youth group and office space has also been donated to the church.

Phelps said the multi-phase rebuilding project is planned with the church’s post-fire attendance increase in mind.

“We are looking to give future generations more room to expand,” he said.

The congregation, insurance money and donations are paying for the project.

“We realize this was a tragedy for us. Everyone is working together,” Phelps said.

Bill Reynolds, a firefighter for two years with the Sycamore Fire Department, was one of two firefighters injured during the blaze.

He returned to the department Thursday after recovering from injuries to his left leg.

“I feel like a million bucks,” Reynolds said.

He suffered severed arteries; “crush syndrome,” which is severe trauma to the tissue; “compartment syndrome,” which is a decrease in the blood supply to affected muscles, and several broken toes.

“The church has been completely supportive,” Reynolds said. “They have done so many things for me, from cards, letters, stopping by to see me in the hospital.”

Reynolds said the congregation made the fire department feel welcome and became an additional part of the family.

The church held fundraisers for him, but some of the money was donated back to the church.