When a Valentine's Day fire broke out this year at Asbury United Methodist Church, fire crews took action.
They sought out the blaze in the York City church's attic and extinguished it, leaving little water damage and allowing parishioners to return after only one day of missed worship.
That's why, in thanks for the men and women who helped save Asbury, the church dedicated this Sunday's service to first responders and their families.
Responders' response: With an embrace, Lead Pastor Yvette Davis personally thanked York City Fire Chief David Michaels for the department's quick response, professionalism and compassion.
During the service, children gave thank-you notes to Michaels, and pastors blessed first responders and their families through a laying on of hands.
"It's very nice of the church to do this for us," Michaels said after the service. "We appreciate them going out of their way."
The fire department sometimes gets thank-you letters from the people it serves, he said, but staff members don't often see an entire church service dedicated to them.
"They really went all-out here," Michaels said. "We really appreciate it."
A handful of first responders were in attendance, such as Michael Freet Jr., a firefighter with York Area United Fire & Rescue.
"It was wonderful," he said of the service.
Freet said he had never been to anything like it. After 28 years as a firefighter, the Glen Rock resident said being recognized for his service made him feel "relieved, like a weight's been lifted."
Heroes: The contemporary service featured live music, a choir, lots of clapping and the occasional "Amen" shouted from the congregation.
Rob Tomes, a pastor at First Assembly of God in Manchester Township and member of the York City Police Chaplain Corps, served as the guest speaker. In uniform with a badge on his left breast, he delivered an animated sermon about heroes. By the time he was finished, he was wearing a Captain America T-shirt.
But fictional superheroes aren't the real heroes — true heroes shoulder the weight of the world, see ugliness each day and still have enough compassion for people that they will run into a burning building, Tomes said.
"They are the real heroes in our community," he said.
For Pastor Eddie Hutcheson, it took a team of heroes to put out the fire on that snowy February day, when ice slid off the church's roof, breaking and igniting a gas line. The fire department put down plastic tarps to decrease water damage to the church, he said.
"They really saved a lot of work for us," Hutcheson said. "They just did a fantastic job."
The service was the first of its kind at Asbury, and the church might hold a similar one for first responders next year, he said.
"Those people really do save lives every day," Hutcheson said. "You always need those folks."
— Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.