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Frederick Adventist church rises from ashes

January 18, 1998

Frederick Adventist church rises from ashes

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

FREDERICK, Md. - With the flames that destroyed the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church santuary in 1993 still leaping into the air, the winds suddenly shifted and the adjoining school building was saved.

"That very day, the congregation of St. John's Catholic Church was having services and dedicated a Mass and prayer to us," said Frank Damazo at the consecration of the new church Saturday.

He's convinced those two concurrent events were no coincidence.

Other expressions of gratitude and praise filled the new sanctuary at its new location at 6437 Jefferson Pike.

"That first day, three Frederick churches came forward to say we could use their sanctuaries for our Saturday services," Damazo said. "Letters with offers to help came in from 38 other churches.''

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The fire on Feb. 28, 1993, began in an electrical transformer connected to a tape recorder. The church, then on Adventist Drive near the Grove Stadium, was a $3 million loss, state fire marshals said.

The Frederick Adventist School and gymnasium were spared and served the congregation as a location for both services and classes while the new building was under construction.

Dan Goddard, pastor of the church then and now, said the smoke had barely cleared when plans were made for the church to rise from the ashes.

"We had a board meeting on March 2 and a congregational meeting March 6," Goddard said of the events of 1993. Committees were formed and plans were made to build a new church and school on another site.

"Today is joy," Goddard said.

Groundbreaking was August 1994 for the huge brick Colonial-style church that now dominates the skyline off Interstate 70 just east of Frederick.

With a capacity of 650 in the sanctuary, the church is home to a 26-rank Schantz pipe organ and a number of unique stained glass windows including an eight-foot circular depiction of a risen Christ over the altar area.

"This beautiful church is just a club house ... without God's presence," said former pastor Kingsley Whitsett.

Many local, county and state officials were on hand for the consecration service Saturday and offered remarks.

But none was so personal as those from U.S. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, a member of the church and one of the first on the scene of the fire five years ago.

"This is a very emotional moment for me," Bartlett said. "My wife Ellen and I were the first members to arrive and we were still there standing in the parking lot when there was nothing left but blackened beams."

The Bartletts, who donated the chandeliers in the narthex and church bell tower entry, also made a gift of today's 4 p.m. organ concert by Harry Sterling.

Bartlett said he remembered how many people came up to him five years ago expressing sorrow that the church had been destroyed.

But they didn't understand, he said. "We didn't lose our church, we only lost a building," Bartlett said.

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