A fire gutted St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Morinville, diocese of Edmonton, early Sunday morning.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated by the fire department’s legal office.
Eyewitness Margaret Giles, who lives in a building near the church, said she heard “a loud bang” and immediately looked out the window.
“[I] couldn’t believe my eyes-the church was on fire,” Giles said in an interview with Margaret Marschall, the diocese of Edmonton’s director of communications and editor of the diocesan newspaper, The Messenger. Marschall posted a story about the fire on the diocesan website.
The fire was also captured on video.
Giles, who called 911, said the church was already “engulfed in flames” by the time firefighters arrived on the scene between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m.
Located at 1107th Street and 100th Avenue, St. Andrew’s is home to a small congregation of about 20 people.
“We’re really grateful that no one was injured,” said the Rev. Ron Horst, rector of St. Andrew’s. Horst added that the church is fortunate that majority of its records are kept in the Anglican archives collection in the Provincial Archives of Alberta. He told the managed to retrieve some baptism and confirmation registries and a few photo albums.
“I’m thinking of the incredible ministry that’s been done at St. Andrew’s over the years,” said Anglican diocese of Edmonton Bishop Jane Alexander. “I remember back to an Easter Sunday when the parish was served by the late Joseph Walker. He was so excited to start the service in complete darkness and then burst forth into the light. I’m thinking of the joy with which Alan Naylor served. I’m thinking how much it means for people to have a place to gather for worship, baptisms, confirmations and weddings.”
In a statement, Alexander said she will be writing to everyone on the parish list and will meet with the members for prayer. She will also be at the parish confirmation service, scheduled on July 21, which will now be held at St. Matthew’s Church, in St. Albert. “I hope by then we will have a plan for the future. One thing I absolutely know for sure is that this church has a future in Morinville.”
The congregation is expected to worship temporarily at Emmanuel Anglican Church in Gibbons, where Horst is also rector.
“Our people have hung together, our people are good people, in that sense I feel really encouraged,” Horst told the Edmonton Journal. “…We have a lot of heartfelt memories in the building, but we know there’s more to it than the memories.”
The St. Andrew’s fire is the second church fire in the town in nine months, according to various media reports. Last September, an electrical fire destroyed the town’s Baptist church.