ELMA N.Y. (WIVB) – The century-old Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Elma is forced to rebuild after going up in flames over the weekend.
“Many memories here for everyone, we’re a small but mighty congregation of family members, that opens their doors every week to everyone who want a place to worship and that’s going to continue despite an arguably pretty dark day in our congregation’s history,” said Bob Breidenstein, who belongs to Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church.
Breidenstein and his family have been making memories at Saint Paul’s on Main Street in Elma for 30 years.
On Saturday, the church, and its history in the community, went up in flames.
“We were having the steeple replaced and repaired and as of Saturday at about 1:45 p.m. there were no visual scenes of any structural issue or fire and at approximately 2:08 in the afternoon a call was made to 911 that the steeple was fully engulfed in flames,” Breidenstein said.
Thomas Schaefer lives next door to the church and saw it on fire.
“It was sad to see. The church is my neighbor, a very good neighbor,” Schaefer said. “It was sad to see that damage and the possibility it won’t be there anymore.”
The church has been around for almost 170 years.
“We have members of our congregation that are on 6 or 7 generations with families that have worshiped here since 1862,” Breidenstein said.
“It’s like a historic building for our neighborhood. It’s something that if it’s gone it’s going to be sadly missed by the neighbors,” Schaefer said.
Fire officials say no one was hurt in the fire and the church managed to save several artifacts from being destroyed.
While the congregation figures out its next steps, the Ebenezer Church of Christ in West Seneca stepped up and offered its building as a place for members of Saint Paul’s to use and hold service.
“Ebenezer was gracious and opened up their doors and church to us so we can worship,” Breidenstein said. “We’ve had other congregations throughout Western New York offer us hymnals and spaces to meet.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The church will be holding a vigil on Main Street tomorrow evening at 7 p.m.
Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.