Life can change in an instant. Two weeks ago, our building was hit by fire.
A lot has happened since then – physically and spiritually as we look to our future and discern what God plans for us.
It’s a day-by-day journey, as we discern what goodness God has in store for us after the fire that occurred late evening Sunday, Feb. 19. Police have laid arson charges in relation to this event, which was part of a series of fires in Barrie’s downtown.
The fire ravaged our Christian education wing, which was built after the First World War. Our sanctuary, which opened on Feb. 25, 1883, was not drastically hit. The closer you get to the corner of Owen and Worsley streets, the less damage, including smoke damage, there appears to be. That is the good news, along with our Casavant organ and our Yamaha grand piano needing only deep cleaning and maintenance work.
Our library – the hub of where many mission and outreach projects were envisioned, discussed and cared for by our teams – was the site of the fire. Our original church doors, restored a few years ago, are charred, and the original pulpit also severely charred.
We have hired a structural engineer to assess the condition of the building, as the City of Barrie requires. An I-beam, which can be seen in one of the library photos, was quite affected by the intense heat.
Our Sunday school room, located on the other side of the library wall downstairs, and our choir room and nursery were also quite affected.
Our friends at Collier United have opened their doors to our office staff and offered us space for programs such as our spring Life-Long Learning series on the environment, which begins this month. Our neighbours at Steckley-Gooderham have offered us their chapel on Sunday mornings, so we can worship at our usual 10 a.m. time; St. Andrew’s and the Steckley family have a long and close relationship.
On our property, the massive clean up is underway. Long-time member Ellen Millar – who happens to be an archivist for Simcoe County – is leading the efforts to sort through the items from our Christian education wing, and determine what we can salvage and what we cannot. Our knitted nativity scene is not safe for children – or anyone – to touch and Ellen and her mother will create a new one for us.
She began work this week, and joins electrical and gas specialists on site. These professionals are segregating utilities, wires and connections that were compromised by the fire. Air quality in the building is not good and soot covers almost everything.
Our grand piano will be removed from the sanctuary this week, and taken for cleaning and repair. Once the work is complete, it will find a climate-controlled space at Steckley-Gooderham’s.
We look forward to gathering together as a church family as we remember the good times and incredible work God did on our site. We may be physically burned out of our building, but we are not consumed. We are on a journey this season, this Lent and beyond, as we rely on God’s love and leading, day by day.