One Year After Arson, Brooklyn Park Salvation Army Chapel Reopens
One year after a Champlin man set fire to the Brooklyn Park Salvation Army, its chapel is reopening its doors.
On Friday, volunteers helped families walk through clothing racks, giving them the chance to find winter essentials free of charge at the Salvation Army Noble Worship and Service Center’s coat drive.
“It’s the people that make the church,” said Marie Putnam, a volunteer with the Salvation Army.
The mood was much higher that a year ago.
On a Friday morning in November 2022, employees were greeted with shattered glass, a charred church pew and vandalized vehicles. A criminal complaint detailed someone throwing a flower pot through the window and using donated coats to set the building ablaze.
The vandal was later revealed to be Jack Heinrich, a Champlin man who investigators linked to a string of vandalisms in the area.
Putnam remembered the months that followed the vandalism.
“The congregation was very saddened by that and taken aback that this would happen at a Salvation Army,” she said.
It left the organization without its traditional place of worship. It also caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
The vandalism also made the main place of worship unusable.
Captain Daniel Simmons, a new pastor at this location, said the front door was still boarded when he arrived in July.
Since Simmons’ family arrived to take over the location, their work has largely been focused on cleanup and rebuilding. Services were held in the Fellowship Hall, which required setup and teardown weekly.
“It is great to set up a space. It is great to move things around,” Simmons said. “It’s great to clean, organize and that is really important, but it can’t be in place of what needs to happen for the community.”
A Space to Gather
One by one, the boarded-up windows were replaced and light began to stream in. Chairs are now set up in the sanctuary in place of pews. The floor is recarpeted with pieces of scripture lining the floor underneath.
Simmons and his wife and co-captain, Claudia Simmons, are overseeing efforts as the space comes together, both in structure and in heart. The congregation continues to grapple with the vandalism, but Simmons believes they are prepared to forgive and move forward alongside the church’s mission.
“I think the deep desire is to reconcile,” Simmons said. “I think the congregation has gotten to the place where they are open to reconciliation, open to connection.”
On Sunday, Nov. 5, the space to connect will finally be complete, and services will resume in the sanctuary.
A consecration service will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Brooklyn Park location on 1011 Noble Pkwy. It will be the first service held in the chapel since the fire last year.
More Ways To Help
As Minnesota days grow colder, the Salvation Army also seeks more donations for its coat drive and the months ahead.
Claudia Simmons said 162 coats are guaranteed right now, but more are needed for families, especially larger sizes. The Salvation Army is also in need of hats and gloves. More information about the Brooklyn Park Salvation Army is available on its website.