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Daily News - Hallelujah! The Glory of Christ Church gets restored

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Daily News - Hallelujah! The Glory of Christ Church gets restored

Posted by: Angel Rosario on Wed, Dec 9, 2009

The sign on the front of the church reads, "We're coming home!!" Glory of Christ Church, in a red brick building that was once a synagogue, was destroyed by arson before Christmas in an over-the-top act that included vandalism and defiling the

 

Pastor Raymond Talavera of the Glory of Christ Church, surrounded by the contractors which will have his church completely re-built.

The sign on the front of the church reads, "We're coming home!!"

Glory of Christ Church, in a red brick building that was once a synagogue, was destroyed by arson before Christmas in an over-the-top act that included vandalism and defiling the church.

The charred-black door and plywood over one window in the front are the only outward signs of the devastating blaze that was set early on Dec. 9.

On a blindingly sunny day last week, workmen inside were painting the ceiling a brilliant white, to match the walls, and were getting ready to lay white marble tiles on the floor.

"We need 10 more gallons of paint," worker and congregant Cesar Rivera told Pastor Raymond Talavera, who shook his head and smiled.

"Guess I'll run out and order that," he said.

Window frames awaited the replicas of the decades-old stained glass that were smashed in the fire. The chairs for the congregation of 150 are to arrive tomorrow and finishing touches will be made to have the church ready to be reconsecrated on Friday in a special ceremony reflecting the church's Christian traditions and Jewish history.

"The people will gather outside, and a shofar will sound," said Talavera, pastor since Glory of Christ was founded 23 years ago.

"We will put oil on everyone's hands, gather at the altar and then disperse throughout the church to lay hands everywhere, to consecrate the environment," Talavera said.

The church was not only intentionally desecrated by the arsonist, but inadvertently by the workmen who have tramped through, smoking cigarettes, cursing and the like.

Not only did the perpetrator paint upside-down crosses and a pentagram surrounded by a "666," which was interpreted as a message of Satanic evil, he/she/they scrawled "Crip Kill" and "We hate Jews and Christians." They smashed the Communion chalice.

It seems every base was touched to make it a hate crime, as well as arson. The Police Department is still investigating; no arrests have been made.

The despair on the morning of the fire soon gave way to faith that the church would rebuild, said Talavera. Immediately, people donated money, and nearby churches offered space to worship. The congregants gathered at Fourth Presbyterian Church, around the corner from Glory of Christ.

Lately, though, they have been holding services in a dance studio.

Rebuilding started eight weeks after the fire. The contractor, Sandro Cabrera of S Working Corp., said, "There was a lot of damage all over the place."

You can still see faint traces of the profane messages, written in flowing, loopy script - not a teenager's penmanship - on some of the walls.

The three wooden steps to the altar remain intact. The flames passed around the altar itself, a sign of divine Providence, Talavera said.

And finding a small menorah under the rubble was also seen as a sign of hope.

Talavera said that as they rebuilt the church, parishioners wanted to keep the Judaic influences from when the building was the Jewish Center of Unionport. So the 12 new windows have Stars of David and the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, as did the old ones.

"We are trying to bring it back, to make a statement to whoever did it," said Talavera. "This is a combination of arson, vandalism and a hate crime. For the last seven months, I've wracked my brain as to why someone would do this.

"It's not just teenagers...they pulled out the gas line downstairs. They wanted to destroy this building."

Talavera said there have been "bumps in the road," and he is still negotiating with the insurance company for the final payment, but the church should be ready Friday.

According to updated building codes, the church is installing an elevator for handicapped access. The church is also putting in other modern conveniences that the old rabbis and Talavera had never envisioned before last December: an alarm system and security cameras.

"Those guys are out there...they could try again," the pastor said.

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