(WBIR) - A day after a devastating fire, a Knoxville congregation is working to salvage what they can from their church.
On Sunday morning, flames quickly gutted the sanctuary of St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Kingston Pike. Church members were set to arrive for a Greek Easter celebration.
On Monday, the emotions of the congregation remained raw. But the main focus is on moving forward and cleaning what the fire spared.
"You never expect this, you never think this is going to happen to you," said church member Alicia Gross, "You realize how fragile we are."
St. George Greek Orthodox Church members worked carefully throughout the day cleaning and recovering items from the soot-covered sanctuary.
"Trying to clean what we can so instruments can be used in Sunday service," explained Greg McCook.
He has seen the damage firsthand.
"The choir loft doesn't exist anymore," said McCook, "It fell all the way through to the bottom floor."
He's turned his focus into restoration, working three hours to clean one piece.
"You have to clean not only on the outside, but inside, it takes time, it's a tedious task but it works," said McCook.
The task of salvaging artifacts isn't an easy one. A special process guided this determined group as they handled the holy water and oils all while maintaining the sanctity of the altar and church practices.
"You have to be careful in terms of spiritually what you can do," said McCook.
With time, brass, silver and gold slowly began to shine.
"We've gone through a lot of Brasso, we are going to go through a lot more Brasso," siad McCook.
The work wasn't a burden but therapeutic.
"For me, it's partially healing," said Alicia Gross, "It's helping everybody's morale. I think we are all kind of uniting and coming together as we always do."
The group made repeated trips to the hardware store to stock up on cleaning materials. Preparing for their next service, the congregation worked to transform their temporary sanctuary in the community room. Cleaned relics made the space feel more like home.
Members of the congregation placed tarps on the roof surrounding the dome to protect the structure from possible rain Monday night.
Currently, the fire's cause is still under investigation. Knoxville firefighters were on the scene as well, cleaning debris from the heavily-damaged foyer area. The fire marshal and insurance investigators planned to meet sometime Monday to discuss what they've found so far. They expect an answer later this week.
Church leaders said insurance should cover the extensive damage, but if you would like to make a donation click here to visit a fundraising site created by the parish. Any other sites raising funds on behalf of St. George aren't affiliated with the parish and are not guaranteed to benefit the church.
Donations can also be mailed to St. George Greek Orthodox Church at 4070 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN, 37919.