Augsburg Fortress

Fire of Grace: The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Fire of Grace: The Healing Power of ForgivenessFire of Grace: The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Trinity Lutheran Church was burned to the ground by one of the most prolific arsonists in the history of the United States. When Paul Keller was finally apprehended and imprisoned, one of his first visitors was Rick Rouse, pastor of the church he burned. Pastor Rouse said that he was compelled by Christ to visit Paul and offer him his personal forgiveness.

That simple and profound act began a process of healing and transformation that included the entire congregation, the victims of arson, and his family. Through sharing his story — and highlighting other stories of forgiveness — Pastor Rouse outlines the path toward reconciliation that many have experienced when relying upon God's gift of forgiveness.

Perfect for small group discussion. A film about the church and their journey is available: Forgiveness: A Miracle of Love. Order the two together.

  • This Item is Not Returnable
  • This product ships separately within 10 business days of placing your order
  • Format Paperback
  • Height 8.5
  • ISBN 9780806651125
  • Publisher Augsburg Books
  • Pages 176
  • Width 5.5
  • Publication Date Jun 21, 2005


"Fire of Grace is the true account of forgiveness and reconciliation. The Trinity Lutheran church building in Lynwood, Washington, was burned to the ground by fire. The story chronicles the journey of this community, led by Pastor Rouse, of forgiving the arsonist. Rouse identifies the steps in the process of forgiveness and associates those steps with the various times in the catechumenal process. This is a wonderful resource to teach about forgiveness and reconciliation at some point in the catechumenal process."
— The North American Association for the Catechumenate

"It is so easy in today's violent and conflicted world to hate. It takes courage and faith to be willing to forgive and take up Christ's ministry of healing and reconciliation. Pastor Rouse's simple yet profound story of his own journey illustrates that those who hate consume themselves but those who forgive are baptized into the Fire of Grace and healing that we experience at the cross when Jesus says: 'Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.' This is the true power of forgiveness and reconciliation that we need in our world today that Christ calls us to follow.

This book would be an excellent choice for a class or reading group for people in their personal lives and for faith leaders wanting to awaken people to the need for this invaluable skill of forgiveness in our broken world today.

We will only find peace in our world when we are each able to stand in our own worlds of pain and have the strength and conviction to make peace with our enemies. When we learn to see Christ in the other — whether they are friend or foe, stranger or beloved — and accept their humanity, we understand that Christ loves and redeems each of us equally and wants us to live in that abundant love. This book helps us to understand and practice this important gift of forgiveness."
— Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

"When the attacks of September 11, 2001 devastated our city, as well as the rest of the country and the world, our lives changed radically. Our spiritual journeys received a drastic new context. Questions of justice, vengeance, and forgiveness bubbled up. We had to learn a new way of being a witnessing church and practicing Christians in the world. Such was the radically changed landscape for Pastor Richard Rouse, Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Seattle Washington metropolis in the wake of scores of church arsons in 1992. In his wonderful account of these events, Fire of Grace: The Healing Power of Forgiveness we join this pastor and the people of Trinity on their Emmaus walk. Partly a chronicle of a pastor's soul, partly gripping coverage of an historical event, and partly a primer on the stages of forgiveness, this book is compelling on many levels. I read my own post 9/11 experiences into it and was illumined on my journey of comfort, renewal and forgiveness."
— Bishop Stephen P. Bouman, Metropolitan New York Synod

"Fire of Grace is a moving story of violation and forgiveness. Richard Rouse weaves the tale of his own personal struggle to forgive together with an insightful commentary on the nature of forgiveness and the power of the Christian story."
— David J. Livingston Ph.D., Department of Religious Studies, Mercyhurst College

"A touching and timely story of crime, grief, anger, and finally, forgiveness and healing. This book teaches all of us how to walk the difficult path of pardon and reconciliation."
— Daniel Erlander, pastor, writer, illustrator Whidbey Island, Washington

"[In this book] Rouse gives compelling evidence that forgiveness is not just a concept, but a way of life...not just an ideal, but a reality that can be lived out with grace."
— The Very Rev. Bob Libby, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Miami, Florida, author of The Forgiveness Book

"Pastor Richard Rouse takes us on a journey with him from his own burn-out, through a devastating fire to healing, forgiveness, and renewal. His personal story is interwoven with the story of his church, his congregation, and community as they struggle with forgiving the arsonist who set fire to the historical church building. His story brings the reader to understand one's own need for forgiveness. He shows us that unforgiveness can make us stuck in a prison of anger and resentment whereas, even the arsonist in this story is set free as a child of God through receiving forgiveness and through forgiving himself. This is the intricately and interestingly woven story of many lives that were touched by one person's choice to forgive. It was very inspiring and brought tears, joy, and hope as I, myself, became woven into the story."
— Joann Nesser, founder of Christos Center for Spiritual Formation in Lino Lakes, MN., and author of Prayer Journey from Self to God and Journey into Reality.

"This book is a God-send. I have been blessed to find an open door and that open door is Pastor Rick Rouse's book Fire of Grace. Before reading this book I didn't realize that being a victim is a choice. Reading Pastor Rouses's words allowed me to immediately drop the status of victim. I now have peace. When I ordered the book I thought I would be reading about a Pastor whose church was burned down and how he forgave the arsonist. Little did I know that throughout the whole book Pastor Rouse was talking straight to my heart, as if he wrote the book just for me, and I can't thank him enough. I am going to suggest to our weekly Bible study group that sometime this year we choose Fire of Grace as our classwork."
— Patricia Goodwin


From the Foreword

Even in the midst of the worst pain and suffering and loss in our lives, there is always hope. In the fire of faith, out of the ashes of grief and despair, comes the gospel promise of presence and transformation. The words of the prophet Isaiah remind us,

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:1-2).

Notice the passage stresses when you pass through the waters and when you walk through the fire, not if! When the inevitable suffering and tragedies of life seem overwhelming, God promises: "I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:15-16).

From a meaningless act of random violence in the torching of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, Washington, a pastor and an arsonist, his family and an entire congregation began to experience redemption in the unconditional love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Literally experiencing the total destruction of their beloved church by fire and water, the faithful people of God at Trinity, led by their visionary pastor, began not only to rebuild, but they also reached out in love, reconciliation, and friendship to the arsonist and his family. What resulted was the transformation of all of their lives.

Fire of Grace: The Healing Power of Forgiveness is the powerful and true story of tragedy and transformation — turning from unawareness, disintegration, and premature death to understanding, forgiveness, and integration — which is a necessary condition in each person's journey toward wholeness. To be transformed individually and collectively is to undergo metamorphosis; fundamentally, it requires a change of life direction, a change of heart and being.

With openness and clarity, longtime friend, pastor, and author Rick Rouse relates not only the Trinity story, but also his personal story of renewal in pastoral ministry. The Trinity church fire becomes the metaphor of his own burnout and, at the same time, a symbol of God's cleansing and healing for himself and the entire congregation. Renewal is gained at a price—the price is the necessary pruning of the false self, the ego, so that true meaning and purpose can blossom.

Pastor Rouse tells this inspirational story of healing and renewal with passion — love and forgiveness lie at the very heart of transformation and the Christian life. Fire of Grace is an unforgettable true story of faith, a compelling book that you will want to read in a single sitting. At the end, God's promise rings bold and true: "When you walk through the fire, the flame shall not consume you." Indeed, it shall be so!

— The Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Bakken, Physician, pastor, and author of The Journey into God: Healing and Christian Faith (Augsburg Fortress) From the


"My hope is that this book will encourage holy conversation about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in unsettling times. I hope it will be read by individuals who then will gather with other believers in new member classes, adult study, church councils, and other settings for lifelong learning in the church. May the Spirit bless our search for wisdom and our witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
— Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Table of Contents

Author's Introduction


The Fire
Trinity: A People in Exile
A Time to Forgive
Starting Over
A Light in the Darkness


A Time to Rebuild
A Place for Redemption
New Life Out of the Ashes
The Miracle Continues

Appendix A: The Catechumenate: A Basic Pattern of Christian Initiation
Appendix B: Forgiveness Research