First the break-in alarm sounded. Then the fire alarm started shrieking.
The facility manager for Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tacoma got the calls at 4:45 a.m. Friday.
By the time Central Pierce firefighters arrived and doused the flames, the sanctuary was heavily damaged by smoke. The organ, piano and drum set were destroyed. Windows were busted out and pews were burned.
Nobody was injured.
The fires are being investigated as arson, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. Two were set in the sanctuary. One was set outside the lobby.
No arrests have been made.
“While this is sad and inconvenient, we know that a church is not the building. It’s the people,” the Rev. Brian Banke said. “Our hope doesn’t lie in a building. We believe it’s all based in God and that never changes.”
Parishioners stopped by the church campus at 4519 112th St. E. on Friday after hearing the news. Some wanted to see the damage for themselves, others wanted to see how they could help.
Larry Veer, who has worshipped there for 12 years, said he was sickened by the fire but was sure the congregation would be stronger than ever.
“Our church will pull together,” he said.
Laurie Kuhlmann immediately drove to the church after her husband called to tell her about the blazes. She offered assistance and hugged a fellow church member before heading home.
“It’s very sad people feel they have to do stuff like that,” she said. “But it’s just a building. The people are more important.”
Damages are severe enough that services will be held at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Sunday at Mount Rainier Lutheran High School, 12108 Pacific Ave. S., Tacoma.
Other local churches, as well as Franklin Pierce School District, have offered space for the church to use.
Banke said he’d already planned to speak about hope in this week’s service, and Friday’s fires inspired him to broaden and deepen the message.
“It brings some things into sharper focus,” he said.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653