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Malibu Presbyterian: Worship after destruction

Congregants of Malibu Presbyterian Church, undaunted by last week's Canyon fire, which destroyed their religious home, gathered en masse nearby today to pray and voice their resolve to rebuild.

The parishioners worshiped at the Malibu Performing Arts Center, just down the hill from where their 50-year-old church lay in ruins.

They hugged. Some cried over their loss. But the mood was redemptive.

Jesus, they recalled, would have called on them to march on.

They handed out fliers announcing that the church's ministries would continue, including seminars for parents, meetings for Pepperdine University students and a food drive for the homeless at the nearby Ralphs supermarket.

"It feels good to be back, but it's not the place we're used to," the Rev. Greg Hughes said as he prepared to lead the service.

Up at the old church before the service, Mike Rupp, 46, tiptoed through the charred remains, searching for some of the peace he had known so often in the sanctuary. Rupp was married in the church; his two children were baptized there. He tried to comprehend what had occurred.

"This building was my safe haven, my sanctuary, where I could always find God when I was troubled," said Rupp, an Agoura salesman, who brought his son and daughter to see the remains of the church. "This was a really cool place, and it will be again."

-- Duke Helfand

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