Grace and Lightning Strikes
Grace Lutheran's church steeple is no stranger to lightning strikes. In fact since the latest lightning strike on the night of June 25, 2022; Grace has been struck a total of 4 times in its long history.
The current lightning strike has made the structure of the steeple unsafe to be near and is currently in the repair process of being deconstructed and reconstructed.
Current steeple repairs
August 10, 2022: The Grace Lutheran steeple's deconstruction is progressing. There was an unexpected discovery of finding that the upper part of the steeple was not hollow but had a large chunk of mortar/concrete in it supporting the steel pole that the cross was attached to. A crane was brought in to support the concrete chunk while the rest of the stones around it were removed. The chunk was then safely lowered to the ground.
Timeline of repairs (oldest to newest)
July 25, 2022: The steeple is wrapped in chain link fencing. This fencing would in the event of the steeple falling keep it all in one piece if it did.
July 28, 2022: The cross on top of the steeple is removed and placed in the sanctuary.
July 31, 2022
A congregational meeting was held after worship to approve a motion to install a lightning rod system on the church. The motion was passed unanimously by those in attendance.
August 3, 2022
Deconstruction has begun. A lot of planning and critical thinking had to go into disassembling each brick. Each brick has been labeled and color coated for when the steeple will be put back together like a giant building block puzzle.
August 8, 2022
Deconstruction continues, and the Grace Food Pantry continues serving the community from our parking lot across the street from the church.
August 10, 2022
There was an unexpected discovery of finding that the upper part of the steeple was not hollow but had a large chunk of mortar/concrete in it supporting the steel pole that the cross was attached to. A crane was brought in to support the concrete chunk while the rest of the stones around it were removed. The chunk was then safely lowered to the ground.
A Brief history on the four lightning strikes
June 25, 2022 Lightning Strike
A fairly sunny day gave way to heavy thunderstorms in the early and late evening with lots of rain and lightning.
Around 11:00 pm the church's fire alarm company notified custodian Aaron Von Holten that the fire alarm system triggered by the church steeple. Upon rushing over and smelling something burnt, Aaron searched and followed the prompts, but found no signs of a fire, he then contacted the Springfield Fire Department and they took it from there.
Closer investigation with SFD's ladder truck reveled that the steeple of the church had received damage from a lightning strike.
Unsure of how stable the steeple was with gaping cracks between the bricks, SFD and City personnel closed off roads around the steeple.
After much planning and discussion with engineers and insurance the steeple is currently being repaired.
2018 Lightning Strike
Lightning strikes the church in another violent thunderstorm and knocks loose one of the four corner spires with part falling to the ground outside and another part falling through the church roof damaging the roof and structure in the attic as well as leaving a hole in the ceiling and damaging the pews below where it landed.
1968 and June 13, 1957 Lightning Strikes
On June 13, 1957 a thunderstorm crossed Springfield bringing with it severe lightning and winds measuring 60-70 miles per hour. One of the storm's casualties was the church steeple. City firemen were called for an inspection and the steeple was deemed unsafe with stones perched precariously near its summit. Using a large rope attached to a fire engine, several hundred pounds of large stone fragments were wrenched loose. The council decided to place a cross designed by R. D. and James Henderson atop the repaired steeple. According to the council requirements:
"The cross is to be metal and not illuminated."
The cross was constructed of 14-gauge stainless steel and its overall height, 10 feet. The cross itself measured 7'6", each 1'4" arm located two feet from the top of the cross. The 2'6" base was anchored to the masonry structure of the steeple, Eleven years later, the church steeple was again struck by lightning and, while the damage was not as severe, repair of the stonework was again necessary.