After building fire, Arlington church holds Sunday services outside

On Friday, Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, the longest-running church in Arlington, Virginia, caught fire. Though the blaze was quickly put out, the damage threatened to shut down Sunday services. That is until church leaders took it outside.

Members of the Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington, Va., gathered for services on the lawn after a fire on Friday caused damage to the building. (WTOP / Luke Lukert)

“I’m so glad we’re here. It just shows we’re still coming together,” Ken Speicher, a church member of 25 years told WTOP.

He was one of over a hundred parishioners who came to the church’s lawn for services on Sunday morning.



The congregants gathered in the sunshine and cool temperatures, with the damaged church in the backdrop. The change of venue did not seem to change the service. Hymns were still sung, Communion is still taken and sermons were still shared.

On Friday, Oct. 14, a fire broke out in the church’s attic above their music and education wing. An Arlington County Fire & EMS spokesman told WTOP that the flames could be seen through the roof. Luckily, firefighters were able to put it out quickly.

Chief Pastor Sara Keeling
Chief Pastor Sara Keeling delivers a sermon during Sunday services on the church lawn. (WTOP / Luke Lukert)

“So even though we have insurance, we know that we are looking at unexpected loss and expenses, and far-ranging consequences that we really haven’t even begun to identify,” Chief Pastor Sara Keeling told the congregation during her sermon.

But, she explained, everyone there should be thankful.

“We still have hope and so much gratitude that no one was harmed,” Keeling said. “That the first responders responded with such speed, and professionalism, and care and kindness.”

Members of the Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington, Va., gathered for services on the lawn after a fire on Friday caused damage to the building. (WTOP / Luke Lukert)

She also said they were blessed the main church and preschool building were not heavily damaged during the fire and that it happened in the early hours of the morning when no one was in the church.

After the service, Keeling told WTOP she was happy with the turnout for the outdoor services.

“I had a pretty good feeling that people would want to come out and be together.”

Karen Brown, another Mount Olivet parishioner, was happy to be on the lawn, listening to songs in her lawn chair.

“I’m glad that we’re having something that gives us a chance to all get together as a community,” Brown said. “Because that’s the most important thing in a church. And we’ll be back inside before long.”

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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