A year after arson, Fort Lauderdale church prepares to reopen for ‘true resurrection’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale completed a year-long restoration just in time for Easter, a festival commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible’s New Testament.

Rev. Leslie J. Hague, the church’s rector, said an arsonist attempted to torch the church last year, on Palm Sunday. The coronavirus pandemic had prompted Hague to cancel in-person services.

“For this year, Easter is huge for us because it’s true resurrection,” Hague said.

The arsonist set linens on the altar on fire. The sacrament was desecrated. The most devastating damage was inside the chapel. The arsonist also set fires in the foyer and near the high altar.

“I’ll never forget that smell,” Hague said. “There was a lot of damage from the actual fire.”  

Despite an investigation, officers never made an arrest in the case. Hague said it was very painful for her and the community.

“We already had grief about not being able to gather,” Hague said.

Hague is eager to celebrate Easter this year even it will involve the use of face masks, social distancing, and other safety measures.

“We will gather in this building for prayer for the first time in over a year and for the first time since the arson,” Hague said.

The reservations for Sunday’s 10 a.m. service have been filled, but there is a waiting list. There were still seats available on Thursday afternoon for the 12:30 p.m. Sunday service. For more information, visit the church’s website or call 954-467-6496.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.