Local church officially reopens years after devastating fire - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

Local church officially reopens years after devastating fire

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VESTAL (WBNG) -- Three years after a fire that destroyed the Grace Lutheran Church, leaders said the community's support helped restore the church as well as their faith.

An open house was held at the Grace Lutheran Church Tuesday afternoon to showcase the new building.

Since 2015, members of the church said it has been a long journey to get to the point of reopening. 

"They knew they wanted to rebuild," said Pastor Andrew Watkins of Grace Lutheran Church. "We weren't sure where or how long it would take and how it would happen, so we kind of worked together as a whole congregation to create a vision and a mission statement."

The rebuild comes not only after the fire that tore through the church, but also after an embezzlement case with the church's treasurer for stealing $250,000.

RELATED: Church treasurer accused of stealing $250,000 from Grace Lutheran Church

Members of the church who have been there for more than 50 years said they were stunned to see how the reconstruction turned out.

"It brought the tears to my eyes," said member Jane Zingerline. "It's very cheerful and open."

The church is now one floor instead of multiple floors like the original one. It also has a new kitchen, an event room, and a preschool classroom.

Church leaders said they couldn't do it without the community's strong support.

"Because things do happen and those are difficult times and people really need that extra support," said Pastor Watkins. "That's our job. We want to be there for them."

The reconstruction cost more than two million dollars covered by insurance. In addition, many donations were given from the community.

The members said they hope to have more activities in the future to invite more people into the new building.

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