It is not entirely clear what caused the eyesight of several congregation members to blur during a praise song this holiday season at Marion Presbyterian Church.
As Jeremiah Lange delivered his sermon, he thought it seemed like a “lethargic morning.”
He told the congregation “we all seemed kind of sleepy” and asked everyone to stand and join together in song.
“When we got done with church my daughter, Sadie, came up to me during fellowship and told me she wasn’t feeling well,” Lange said. “I didn’t think anything about it and told her to get something to eat, but later she came back and said ‘Dad, I think it’s carbon monoxide poisoning.’”
“I said, ‘What? Why do you think that?’ Sadie said, ‘Mommy was talking about it,’” Lange said.
Lange went to go find his wife, Danielle, who was talking to Jona Neufeld in the church’s kitchen. He inquired about Sadie’s unusual comment.
“Dani told me that her vision went fuzzy,” Lange said. “She said it happened when everyone stood up to sing praise songs. I guess it’s ironic that we were singing ‘Let Everything That Has Breath,’ but she said she couldn’t read the screen.”
Lange said congregation member Amy Kjellin overheard their conversation and interjected that her vision had gone blurry, too.
“At first I was skeptical,” Lange said, “but then when multiple people mentioned it, it was like, ‘holy cow, what’s going on?’”
Lange and Darin Neufeld, chairman of the church’s building and grounds committee, went to the basement to investigate and discovered that one of the building’s two heaters was blowing cold air.
“The furnaces don’t have a pilot light like older ones do,” Neufeld said. “They have a little ceramic igniter.”
He said the igniters are usually designed to shut off the gas flow automatically if they burn out, so they went back upstairs to rejoin fellowship time.
“There was no smell of gas in the sanctuary where my family had been sitting,” Neufeld said.
However, other people told Lange and Neufeld about having experienced blurry vision in the sanctuary, so the duo went back downstairs.
Each man smelled gas.
“At that point, I reached in and shut the gas value off to be safe,” Neufeld said.
The smell may have been natural gas, Neufeld said. He didn’t think it was carbon monoxide because the poisonous gas is odorless.
“You actually have to be burning gas for it to be carbon monoxide, and I don’t think that furnace was burning gas because it was blowing cold air,” Neufeld said. “I think someone just threw out the term ‘carbon monoxide’ in conversation.”
Suffield’s Heating Cooling and Plumbing replaced the igniter after the problem Dec. 13, and the furnace is working again.
However, Neufeld never found out why they had smelled gas.
“I don’t know what happened, but my guess is that it was a short circuit and the gas valve kept tripping off and on,” Neufeld said.
Marion Fire Chief Mike Regnier said everybody should have a carbon monoxide detector and check them on a regular basis.
“Normally, you should check them like smoke detectors, twice a year in fall and spring around the time changes,” Regnier said, “and it’s a good idea to keep one on each level of a building.”