Fir Lawn church to be sold

By Scott Swanson
Of The New Era/Lebanon Local

Three months after an arson fire destroyed a portion of their building, Fir Lawn Lutheran Church members have decided to sell it.

Church spokeswoman Patty Holk said that the congregation, which numbers about 15 active members, has decided “that we cannot financially support that building” and has been negotiating with a real estate agent on how to go about selling it.

The church’s office area and foyer were destroyed in the fire, which was reported shortly after 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Feb. 25. Sweet Home Police Department officers and firefighters arrived to find the foyer area fully engulfed in flames.

Although the sanctuary area was preserved by heavy doors, which were shut, heat and smoke damage within was heavy, according to reports.

On April 26, Sweet Home police arrested Andrew Jacob Cartwright, 36, in Douglas County, and charged him with multiple felonies, including arson, burglary and criminal mischief. Two days later, he pleaded no contest to two counts of arson, with a stipulation that he face a maximum penalty of 20 months in prison and $375,000 in fines. At press time Cartwright remained in Linn County Jail.

The remains of the foyer at Fir Lawn Lutheran Church, as seen Feb. 25, hours a fire destroyed part of the building and severely damaged the sanctuary. File photo

Holk said an “interested party” has been in communication about possibly buying the structure, but Fir Lawn representatives are still working to determine whether to repair as much of the building as possible with insurance funds or just sell it. A church council meeting was scheduled for Sunday, June 4, to discuss the matter with a real estate agent, she said.

“The congregation of Fir Lawn has decided our goal right now is to sell the property as it stands,” she said. “The bottom line is we’re going to get rid of the building.”

According to Holk, the Fir Lawn congregation has continued to meet at the Sweet Home United Methodist Church building at 845 6th Ave., which has also provided office space. Pastor Joe Medley retired from Fir Lawn at the end of 2021, and visiting pastors have led services since then, she said.

“They’re very gracious, allowing us to use their facilities and office space,” Holk said.