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Church on a mission: Ocklawaha Community Church recovers from organ fire

By Bryce Abshier – Contact

(Thoughts? Submit a letter to the editor here.)

Don’t ask the folks at Ocklawaha Community Church about politics – they aren’t interested. Rather then talk about politics, the congregation has a more particular mission in mind – serving their Lord Jesus Christ. As such, what had long been Ocklawaha United Methodist Church is now Ocklawaha Community Church.

In addition to their disaffiliation from the Methodist church, the congregation recently had other fires to put out, of a more literal nature. In February, 2023, the church was devastated by a horrific organ fire that ravaged much of the building.

Pastor Tim Rasmussen took time recently to recall that awful day. “The smoke was so thick, so black,” Rasmussen explained. “I couldn’t see a thing.” The church sanctuary was covered in a fog of thick, black smoke.

The flare up, as luck would have it, just so happened to ignite on a Sunday, which proved to be the most fortuitous part of the whole ordeal. Had it sparked on another day of the week, it likely wouldn’t have been caught quickly and the damage would have been much worse. Nobody was injured during the incident that day, however plenty were there to witness it.

Pastor Rasmussen commended the efforts of local firefighters who arrived almost immediately. Three fire stations responded to the blaze, including Weirsdale, Silver Springs, and Belleview. Investigation later revealed the source of the fire – a dusty, old organ that had gotten little use in recent years.

In the months that followed, many challenges would be met by the church. The trials of dealing with insurance, as well the struggles of beginning to rebuild what had been destroyed were daunting. Enormous pews that were bolted to the floor endured smoke damage. They all had to be cut into thirds just to be removed from the building. For nearly the rest of 2023, between the months of February and November, church services had to be held in the Fellowship Hall.

According to Pastor Rasmussen, the efforts of his congregation and his wife Serena have allowed Ocklawaha Community Church to bounce back from this setback better than ever.

The beautifully restored sanctuary is now fully operational at Ocklawaha Community Church. Ornate stained glass windows accent the freshly painted walls and newly furnished building. The congregation can now focus on their mission in a place of peace and purpose every Sunday.

Their mission to serve Jesus has many objectives. The congregation proudly helps feed around 800 local people in need every month through the church food pantry. They also help the community in many other ways, including providing clothes to those who are struggling. In recent weeks, as temperatures dipped below freezing, the church distributed over 100 blankets. For the congregation at Ocklawaha Community Church, this is all just part of their mission – helping those in need and serving Jesus Christ. No politics are necessary.

Ocklawaha Community Church is located at 13333 E Hwy 25, in Ocklawaha. Services are held at 10:00 am on Sunday and everyone is invited.

Indomitable Faith

Even when things looked grim at Ocklawaha Community Church after a devastating fire, Pastor Tim Rasmussen and his wife Serena rebuilt their sanctuary from the ashes with help of their congregation and their faith.

(Thoughts? Submit a letter to the editor here.)

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