from our partnerFaithwire
written byWill Maule
A historic, 150-year-old First Baptist Church in the town of Wakefield, Massachusetts was engulfed in flames Tuesday night, with the blaze destroying absolutely everything in its path. However, one precious item survived. A large painting that depicts the Lord Jesus Christ, standing in a white robe and with his hands bearing the marks of his brutal crucifixion remained unscathed.
According to reports, the artwork, which was hanging just within the church’s front doors, was almost completely untouched, with just a few drops of water falling upon it. “It’s a beautiful sign of hope and a reminder that Jesus is with us,” church member Maria Kakolowski told Boston 25. “I am personally just taking it as a sign and a reminder that the Jesus, the Christ that we serve is still alive and even though our church building is gone, our church is here. The God that we serve is still here.”
As fire crews picked through the remnants of the building and attempted to figure out what sparked the blaze, many residents offered their own version of events which led to the decimating of the beautiful structure. Locals said that, as large thunderstorms raged through the Greater Boston area, lightning struck the church building and ignited the fire.
In a statement, church officials noted their immense thankfulness that none of the parishioners were injured by the fire. As for the extensive damage caused, they remain hopeful for the future rebuilding of their iconic place of worship. “We know that we serve a God who specializes in restoring brokenness and who can bring beauty even from ashes,” they wrote. “So we move into the future with trust, hope and gratitude.”
Interim pastor Norm Bendroth said the building “just went up like a tinderbox.”
He added: “It’s a building built in 1870 and it’s a balloon-style so one the fire starts you know the whole building just went up quickly.”
A GoFundMe page has since been set up to help fund the rebuilding process.
“As many have heard, a beloved Wakefield landmark was struck by lightning Tuesday night,” reads the description. “Not only is this [a] historic building and a beautiful part of our town’s charm, but this has been a place of worship for more than 100 years. As the former pastor’s daughter and having grown up running through the halls, discovering secret hiding spots in the church, it breaks my heart that what I’ve considered a second home has burned down in the blink of an eye.”
But, the creator of the campaign page, Emily Brown, reminded supporters that while a beautiful church building is a wonderful thing, it is the faithful that makes up the Body of Christ.
The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people.”
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!
So far, over $18,000 has been raised for the restoration project.
“Please support our church as we continue to worship, teach, learn, serve, love, and grow in our community,” Brown implored. “Please join our church family in our mission to bring God’s light to the world around us. Thank you for your love and support and may God bless each and every one of you.”
The town’s fire chief, Michael Sullivan, told the Boston Globe that the “extent of the fire on arrival was just too great for us to stop it,” and the cost of the damage is estimated at around $1 million. “It’s a shame, beautiful church,” Sullivan added. “We feel bad about that but there’s really nothing we could do.”
(H/T: Boston 25)