Denham Springs church breaks ground on new sanctuary

DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - More than a year and a half after the historic 2016 flood and many are still working to restore what once was.

Members of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Denham Springs began their road back to normalcy Sunday as they broke ground on a new sanctuary. Almost 2 feet of water destroyed St. Francis Episcopal in August 2016.

"It would be like going to your home and having something catastrophic happen," said Dan Krutz, a priest at the church. "My hopes really dimmed, but then things changed."

That change began with a nudge from the priest in charge at the time, Mark Holland, the congregation took a moment to survey the destruction and turn a 40-year-old plan to build a new church, into reality.

"My primary role was to be a calm, healing presence in the mist of their destruction and a voice of encouragement," Holland said. "We will recover, we will rebuild. We will get better and to keep them focused on what could be."

"When the storm came, it freed them up to dream big," said the Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, Morris Thompson. "Knowing that they were going to have to rebuild in some form, they said what if."

That 'what if' helped them replace two buildings in September 2017, the administration building and parish hall. That greater vision also helped them break ground for a new church home this Sunday, fulfilling a dream.

"That was an amazing sort of happening for this parish to sort of be able to think and dream about that other possibility," Krutz said.

"I think good can always come out of tragedies," said Thompson. "This congregation proved that."

Church officials said they haven't had a new church since their founding in 1952.

Members said this new church symbolizes many things, but most of all, a brand-new beginning in the community they serve.

"It sends a signal to the people around us that we're not here just to kind of exist, but we really have meaning and purpose in what we're doing. We have a mission," Krutz said. "I'm hoping to make more of an imprint in the life of the community here."

The church did have flood insurance so that combined with donations has helped them along the way. They hope to begin services in the new church in October of this year.

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