March 07, 2005
| By: 
Joe Bjordal

An arson fire destroyed the Church of St. Edward the Confessor, Orono, Minnesota on Sunday morning, April 14, 2002. That was the begining of a long and difficult journey for the small congregation, which, more than once, came to the brink of "giving up." The congregation's building, as it turned out, was vastly underinsured and the congregation could not afford to rebuild, even with a successful capital campaign.

Just when it looked like all was lost, a member of the congregation--a contractor--stepped forward and offered to build "with the money they had." Bob Harlan felt a call to build the building "at cost," without any profit and even with substantial donation of workers' time and material.

That offer, coupled with a $500,000 capital campaign that is on track, made it possible for a new building to be constructed. The
congregation held its first worship service in the new building on Sunday, March 6. There was not a dry eye in the place. As the
congregation sang "Amazing Grace" as the closing hymn, tear of gratitude were flowing.

"Look around you this morning," said the Rev. Janet Wheelock, priest-in-charge. "There is not one object here, not one piece of
lumber or pane of glass, that is not the result of a remarkable mission partnership for the sake of the Gospel."

One unique feature of the new building is the floor of the worship space: a large, permanent labyrinth stained into the concrete floor. Worship takes place "in the round" and the labyrith can be walked without moving the chairs. That was an idea that came to Mr. Harlan by "divine inspiration."

The congregation, which has been meeting in a chapel at Wayzata Community Church since the fire, now plans to offer their new facility, including a state-of-the-art kitchen and fellowship hall, for community events.

And, there is perhaps more "divine inspiration" ahead for Mr. Harlan. He feels a new calling to "keep building churches."

The local CBS News affiliate, WCCO, carried a story on its evening newscast on March 7, which can be viewed here: http://wcco.com/topstories/local_story_065205424.html