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Gloria Dei members and friends gather on the first anniversary of fire

Gloria Dei hosted a Valentine party at St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church Feb. 11. (Photo by Linda Kalweit)1 / 3
Gloria Dei hosted a Valentine party at St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church Feb. 11. (Photo by Linda Kalweit)2 / 3
Terrence Smith performed at Gloria Dei's Valentine party at St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church Feb. 11. (Photo by Linda Kalweit)3 / 3

A special prayer service will be held on the first anniversary of the fire that devastated Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Duluth. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, exactly one year since the fire, members and friends will meet for scripture, prayer, singing and speakers, including Mayor Emily Larson and Lee Stuart of Chum, plus a procession encircling the Gloria Dei building. The event is at Dougherty's Funeral Home on 6th Avenue East and Second Street, and a reception there will follow. Parking is available either at Dougherty's or at Gloria Dei. All are welcome.

"We gather to remember God's faithfulness and to reaffirm Gloria Dei's presence in the Hillside neighborhood," says Pastor David Carlson. "We see this anniversary as an opportunity to invite neighbors and friends in the community, to thank them for their support, and to share about our plans going forward."

From the outside, the church building looks boarded up and inactive. But Gloria Dei has had a busy year in making plans to repair and restore the building, while still holding worship services and ministering to the Central Hillside neighborhood.

"It was a year like no other," Pastor Carlson wrote in Gloria Dei's 2016 Annual Report, referring to the fire and the changes it caused for the church. "Yet it was also a year like any other," he continued, referring to the ministries of Gloria Dei that carried on despite a change of location during the past year.

These ministries include the Free Neighborhood Breakfast, 9-10:30 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of each month. St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, 325 E. Third St., has welcomed Gloria Dei's breakfast to their fellowship hall, as well as hosted other events including a fall fair, a joint Lutheran-Catholic worship service during advent, and Gloria Dei's annual Valentine Party on Feb. 11. A picnic lunch was served, and Terrence Smith provided music for dancing. Activities included valentine-making and cookie decorating.

"Despite our major loss, we've also experienced a blessing in stronger relationships with our neighbors," Carlson said. On Feb. 18, prayers around the building will be led by clergy representing neighboring congregations including First Presbyterian Church, St. Mark A.M.E. Church, St. Scholastica Monastery, and First Lutheran Church. "We would not be here without the hospitality and support of others," Carlson continued. "With them we share a mutual ministry for and with this community, and we look forward to our relationships continuing to be renewed as we move forward."

Plans and work to repair and refurbish the Gloria Dei church building at Sixth Avenue East and Third Street are progressing, and congregational leaders will share some updates at the gathering on Feb. 18. One day, Gloria Dei will be back in action at this building, but until then, the church's ministries go on in temporary locations.

Gloria Dei holds a worship service and education classes every Sunday at the church at 1814 N. 51st Ave. E. All are welcome. Education for all generations begins at 8:45 a.m. and worship starts at 10 a.m. Coffee and fellowship time follows.

Alison Stucke is a member of the Gloria Dei congregation.