NOTE (November 26, 2014): The seminary community has since returned to their building.
NOTE (November 20, 2014): President James Gimbel has provided a new update on the seminary fire and recovery efforts.
EDMONTON – President James Gimbel of Concordia Lutheran Seminary (CLS) has released a letter updating supporters on the fire that occurred in the library basement there the evening of November 12. “Sadly,” he explains, “it appears that the fire was neither accidental nor structural” in origin.
Sadly, it appears that the fire was neither accidental nor structural.
“We are so thankful to God for the fact that there were no injuries from the fire in the library basement,” President Gimbel writes. But while there were no injuries, and structural damage is considered minimal, there is heavy soot and smoke damage. He also writes that burned wiring in one area has caused problems for the heating unit, leaving the seminary cold.
An investigation into the fire began in earnest November 13. The same day the seminary’s insurance adjuster visited the site, along with a clean-up reclamation team to help form a building recovery plan.
On Friday, November 14, staff and faculty from CLS and Concordia University College of Alberta (CUCA) intend to move “the most basic, necessary, and personal items” from seminary offices so that they can be cleaned over the coming week. Access to the building throughout the coming week will otherwise be very limited, in order to prevent recontamination of cleaned areas as well as to prevent staff exposure to cleaning agents (such as heavy ozone).
In the meantime, the seminary will continue to operate—just not in its building. “The Seminary, like the church, is really the people not the building,” President Gimbel notes in his letter. Thanks to space provided by the Alberta-British Columbia District office, classes began again the evening of November 13. Professors are being encouraged to self-manage and do whatever is possible from home, the ABC District office, or CUCA.
The Seminary, like the church, is really the people not the building.
“The hope is that after the first week is over, we will slowly regain use of the offices, classrooms, and other areas,” President Gimbel writes. As for the library itself, where the fire took place, the reclamation team estimates it may take six to eight weeks to complete the cleaning. “They will use the least invasive measures possible for the massive cleanup,” President Gimbel explains, “hoping to clean and reclaim most of our holdings for normal use after the process is over.” In the meantime, the seminary expects to rely on online resources and the library at CUCA for some of its intellectual resources.
The challenges caused by the fire therefore, while not insignificant, are nevertheless being overcome. “We move forward from here, in God’s grace and care, fulfilling our mission to ‘form servants for Jesus’ sake,’” President Gimbel writes. “Even beyond thanking and praising God for His protection from what could have been far worse, we are reminded of the times throughout history when God’s people have been displaced or become pilgrim sojourners, aware from their very circumstances that their (our) greater home and permanent dwelling is with God and not bound to earth. We too, are on that journey with sights set on things above.”
News of the fire has resulted in an outpouring of prayers and messages of support from across Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC). Synod asks its members across the nation to continue to keep Concordia Lutheran Seminary in prayer over the weeks to come, both in private prayer and in the public worship of congregations.
“It has been amazing to experience the outpouring of support and cooperation from around LCC,” President Gimbel noted. “Thanks for being joyful pilgrims together. I value each of you as part of our team.”
Download the full letter from President Gimbel here.