Church looks to rebuild after tree smashes sanctuary hall

On Sunday, workers began to clear out debris after a tree fell on Havenhouse Church's sanctuary hall and destroyed it. Matt Fernandez/The Signal

A large tree fell and destroyed the Havenhouse Church’s main sanctuary hall in Newhall on Sunday, according to the congregation’s pastor.

Pastor John Boone said he received a call from the alarm company at 8:15 a.m. that the alarm had been tripped. When he went to go investigate, Boone discovered the damage to his church, and was grateful no one was injured in the crash.

“I’m very thankful that this happened early on a Saturday when no one was inside the sanctuary,” Boone said. “If it had been 24 hours later, then the worship team would have been inside getting ready for service. The tree crashed through the area where they normally warm up and practice, so we might have had a much worse situation.”

The sanctuary hall was built in the 1940s by German immigrants who lived on the land and used it as a communal meeting place, Boone said, until it was purchased by the church in the 1980s. He said the building was notable as the first in California to feature a ceiling of its kind, which was shaped in an inward curving arc.

Sanctuary Hall was originally built in the 1940s by German immigrants. Matt Fernandez/The Signal

With such little time to prepare, Havenhouse had to cancel its Sunday services, though Boone said patrons either found other services in the area to attend or held their own services in the homes with neighbors. Going forward, Havenhouse plans to convert a fellowship hall into a makeshift worship hall, and though it is only half the size of the sanctuary hall, Boone is confident that he will still be able to serve his congregation.

Boone doesn’t yet know how much the damage will cost to repair, though he said he has been working with the church’s insurance company. A contractor said it could take until Wednesday to clear all of the tree debris and afterward, Boone would still needs permits from the city to begin demolition and reconstruction of the building.

As far as rebuilding goes, all Boone wants to do is to rebuild the sanctuary hall as close to its original form as he can, and restore its unique architecture. He isn’t looking for upgrades. He also express disappointment in losing some irreplaceable segments, such as a stained glass window made in the 1980s. The pastor said he believes the church’s insurance should be enough to cover the damage and construction costs, and doesn’t want to participate in any crowdfunding or fundraising campaigns.

Despite the tragedy, Boone is maintaining an optimistic attitude and feels this is just another opportunity for his church.

“We were already a pretty tightly knit community, and though I am sad, my hope now is that this can bring us even closer together,” Boone said. “The only thing we can do is come together and trust that God is going to make something good out of this.”

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