Fire destroys sanctuary of 3 congregations, day care in Tampa

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Over half a century of memories have been reduced to ash by an electrical fire at Faith Lutheran Church in Tampa. 

Dampened pews and charred remnants have rendered the 60-year-old building unusable.

The fire also robbed two other congregations of their place of worship.

"The church really became an inferno, and you can see from the library, it's just charcoal now," said Russell Meyer, the Reverend at Faith Lutheran.


The church is also home to an affordable, income-based daycare.

Monday, classrooms were empty and children were turned away. The daycare will not be able to return to normal operations until power is restored.

"When I walked in here on Sunday morning, literally I wanted to cry. We've made this our home," said Keith Babb, Pastor of  The Way Church of Tampa Bay. "With us kind of being down and out right now, that kind of impacts and limits us with how we serve the community."

For Pastor Babb, he said the loss is heartbreaking. His congregation shares the building with Faith Lutheran for their Sunday services. He told FOX 13 that the fire destroyed Christmas gifts they had purchased for kids in need.


"We were purchasing gifts to give to Step Ahead Academy," stated Babb. "But of course, those plans got derailed by the fire."

Babb said they will still move forward with their initial plans to bless the kids, however, they will now be purchasing the gifts themselves.

With the daunting task of repairs and restoration ahead, church leaders said their faith has not been shaken. Services will still be held in a makeshift sanctuary in the fellowship hall. The congregations will also continue on with their outreach ministries, making adjustments as needed.


"We love God, we support one another, and we serve our community, that's who we are, and that has not been changed by a burning roof," said Meyer.

Despite the rubble, Faith Lutheran said they have every plan to rebuild. At this time, it is unknown the full extent of the damage, as they are still waiting for inspections to be completed.

Anyone who would like to donate Christmas gifts for The Way Church's outreach programs may email for more information on how to help. A GoFundMe has also been started to help cover the cost of repairs.