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Damaged in fire, church rises again

On Saturday, worshipers at Apostles Lutheran Church will bless a reconstructed alter, freshly painted walls and the Bible tossed to the ground in a night of rage.

Congregants are celebrating a rededication service after vandalism this summer caused $272,000 in fire damage and destruction.

Leaders of community churches and synagogues will attend the rededication service, along with Bishop Edward Benoway of the Florida-Bahama synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

"It will be new for everybody," said Robin Hanson, a member and church receptionist. "We've g

rown tighter here. I think that people, once the church was hurt, they stuck by it."

The event marks the reopening of the most badly damaged of two Brandon churches vandalized in August. Eight windows were shattered at First United Methodist Church on Knights Avenue. At Apostles Lutheran Church on Kingsway a stained glass window was smashed. The alter was tipped onto the pulpit. Smoke from a fire ruined the ventilation system.

Karl Freudenberger 22, confessed to the crimes. He being held at the Orient Road Jail on charges of criminal mischief, arson and burglary.

Since August, Apostles Lutheran has held worship services in a hall at the church while the sanctuary was renovated.

The community rallied to help. One church offered space for services. Another stepped forward to clean the hymn books. Checks totalling more than $11,000 arrived at the church. Hanson said insurance covered most of the repairs, while worship services remained full. The church's Sunday school classes have nearly doubled to about 40 children, she said.

Saturday's rededication service begins at 2 p.m. with a high mass. Bell-ringers, members of the choir and the band will participate. A reception will follow.

On Sunday, Apostles Lutheran Church will hold morning services in the rededicated church. Traditional services begin at 8:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. A contemporary service starts at 9:45 a.m.

_ Letitia Stein can be reached at 661-2443 or