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St James Anglican Church in Roseneath, Ontario, destroyed by “suspicious” blaze

Posted on: April 18, 2019 8:07 PM
St James’ Anglican Church, which was built in 1863, burned down on 9 April 9 in a fire police have deemed “suspicious”.
Photo Credit: Google Street View / Ontario Provincial Police
Related Categories: Bp Riscylla Shaw, Canada, fire, Ontario, Toronto

[Anglican Journal, by Joelle Kidd] Parishioners of St James’ Anglican Church in Roseneath, Ontario, are grieving the loss of their church after the historic building was destroyed by a fire last week (Tuesday 9 April). Bryce Sangster, Rector of the parish of Campbellford, Hastings and Roseneath, says the blaze started around 10.15 pm EDT [2.15 am Wednesday 10 April GMT]. By the time he arrived on the scene close to 11.30 pm, smoke was rising from the front of the church, the only part of the building left standing.

“It’s tough. . . I can’t shut off. I can’t read, I can’t do anything else,” says Sangster, when asked how he is feeling.

While the church was completely destroyed, Sangster says he hopes its bell may be salvageable. However, no one has been allowed at the scene, which is currently being preserved by police as part of an investigation.

About 15 people regularly attend the church, which was built in 1863. Many have been coming for years. “One woman, I couldn’t talk to [her] because she was so distraught. . . She [was] still ringing the bell, and she used to do that as a kid,” says Sangster.

The fire came on the heels of a dedication Sunday a few weeks previous, when the church paid tribute to a man who had done a good deal of work on the church building. The congregation also dedicated an altar cloth in memory of a woman who recently died.

“The altar cloth was in the church that day and then got taken home, and the person that had it forgot it last Sunday. So it’s still hanging in their house,” says Sangster. “I said, ‘Bring it on Sunday.’ That’s the one thing that we have left, that we know of, that will be the continuation from the old church.”

The congregation met last Sunday in the nearby Alnwick Civic Centre. Though details of where the church will meet next are still being determined, Sangster says there is already talk of rebuilding the church.

An historic cemetery, with monuments dating back more than a century and an eco-friendly interment area, surrounds the site of the church. Hopes for rebuilding are twofold, he says: “a place for us to worship on Sunday morning and something to continue the cemetery, its presence in the community.”

Sangster says support has been pouring in since the fire. A Peterborough church has organised a “travelling communion set” for the church’s Eucharist this upcoming Sunday, and diocese of Toronto Area Bishop for Trent-Durham, Riscylla Shaw, has also visited.

Still, for St James’ parishioners, the pain remains fresh, Sangster says. “We’re still grieving. In a sense, I don’t think the shock has even worn off yet.”