Its been one year since an act of arson destroyed two historic churches on D Avenue in Douglastwo of four churches that made up the city’s ‘Church Square’.

St. Stephens Episcopal Church ended up demolishing what remained of their sanctuary earlier this year. Meanwhile, neighboring First Presbyterian has been working to save whats left of their church.

Douglas church arson: One year later One year later: Work continues on Douglas churches devastated by fires

And while one church is gone forever, theres a different feeling now on D Avenue than this time last year. The feeling is hope. KGUN 9 was given an exclusive look inside the braced walls of First Presbyterian by pastor Peggy Christiansen.

It feels like it was a few weeks ago and it feels like it was a decade ago,” Christiansen tells me. “Its been a roller coaster.

Over the past year, Christiansen has been trying keep the church running, all while cleaning up what the fire left behind.

She shows me the communion table, where she says accused arson suspect Eric Ridenour started the blaze. It’s one of the few pieces of furniture remaining.

Two weeks ago Christiansen and project superintendent Mike Royder entered the sanctuary for the first time since last May.

It felt so mixed Alexis,” she shared. “It looks so damaged and so hurt and so wounded, and yet there is a sense of dignity and hope.

That sense of hope is what’s kept the congregation focused on their mission to serve the community, and to rebuild their historic church.

Its amazing to see, for 120 years later that its still up and standing after a fire, says Royder.

He details the first steps they’ll be taking in the interior, removing the damage items and wood frame from the building. Royder says that work will begin next week.

As for Christiansen, she tells me despite the emotional ups and downs, she’s looking forward to what comes next:

The spirit is indestructible. And because we know we have a future, and we dont know exactly what it is, but we have complete confidence because we are being led.

Dignity and hope on D Avenue: First Presbyterian rebuilds after Douglas arson