The news was devastating -
St. Mary The Virgin Church in Indian Bay, Newfoundland, had burned to the ground.
The fire had started early in the morning, and by the time the fire crew arrived, the old building was burned beyond saving. Even though we'd never sung in this church, we are good friends with its minister, Rev. David, and had sung for the community twice on our East Coast Tours.
On Sunday, we sang for the community again at St. Alban's Church in Trinity.
On Monday, Gerald, Rev. David, and I visited the fire site.
As we opened the car doors, the first thing that hit us was the smell. It's been weeks since the fire, yet a charred smell still fills the air. The next thing to catch our attention were the steps to nowhere. The front steps and the ramp remain completely intact, only burned on the edge that met the building.
|The unburned steps...|
We approached the rectangular remains. Despite strong winds, the building had burned down cleanly, the fire never touching the surrounding woods or homes. This is a church that had been lovingly built by hand. Stretching out before us was a haunting black skeleton, burnished and shining in the sunshine.
|The devastation. You can see the broken baptismal font lower right.|
The remains changed as we came closer to the altar area. Pages of hymnals, Bibles, and prayer books were scattered in the ashes. The spines of the books had burned and separated, and the individual pages were only singed on the edges. The white pages floated on the black mess, their messages of hope and comfort gleaming in the sun.
|This hymn seemed hauntingly appropriate in the ashes...|
"I think that's a paten!" David called out. The silver plate used to hold the Communion bread was poking out of the ash. Gerald climbed over the beams and pulled it out. The tiny round plate was still hot and horribly misshapen. We began to notice other pieces of the Communion set - cups, plates, and stems, their silver finish burned off and fused with soot.
|Communion pieces pulled from the soot.|
It was then that we noticed the most remarkable sight of the day. Floating above the decimated wreckage, their orange wings caught the sunlight. Two bright, glorious butterflies flitted in the warm air. Below them lay the black, charred devastation. The contrast was striking.
|Our sign of hope!|
This church was a cornerstone of the town. It was filled with memories of weddings, baptisms, social nights, music, and family. Its loss brought grief and mourning. And yet, these butterflies danced and played. The three of us watched and marvelled at their lightness. They were in the blackest spot in the area, and yet, they rejoiced. They seemed to say, "Life is still here. There is hope. There is joy. Let the dance continue..."
We will continue to pray for the congregation of Indian Bay as they work through this transition. We don't know what the future will hold for them, but we know there is hope. We know there is joy. We know the dance will continue...
"... and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair."
Isaiah 61:3 NIV
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