By Katie Steiner

NORWOOD YOUNG AMERICA, Minn. (WCCO) — Sun frosted trees framed a stark, tearful image: a church rooted in community, suddenly gone. It’s still not known what caused a devastating church fire in Norwood Young America Sunday night.

The nearly century-and-a-half-year-old United Methodist Church was destroyed roughly eight hours after the last worshipers had left.

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Fire crews from eight surrounding communities raced to the Church in the Maples shortly after 7 p.m., but flames were already shooting out the steeple. What should be a joyous season, is suddenly filled with uncertainty.

For 146 years, the United Methodist Church stood strong, a spiritual home for many including Jean Harmon’s great-grandparents.

“It’s pretty sad, because that is where we get our spiritual nourishment from,” Harmon said.

Jeannie Young was the last to close the door Sunday. She recalls a space heater near the entry and vows it was turned off.

“I was walking the organist out and she witnessed me unplugging that thing,” Young said.

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The handful of active members had just finished decorating the church for the advent season. All that survived is an image of Jesus and a charred bell.

Still, Pastor Eli Somers says there’s joy even in darkness.

“Even though it’s a tragedy, the only thing that is gone is a building,” Somers said.

Somers also serves as minister of the nearby Arlington United Methodist Church. it’s likely the dozen or so displaced parishioners will worship there.

In the meantime, the search for a cause continues, and a sad loss of both history and hope.

“It is sad you won’t hear that sound anymore coming from your church. Not from ours,” Young said.

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Other churches in the area are offering support and spiritual help to the displaced parishioners.

Katie Steiner