It spread … it spread really fast.



There, in the middle of the church, well if you could recognise it as such, the Font stood. Seared and scorched, every wall, floorboard and all that still resembled the mundane and intimate, the structural and the decorative body of a building cried out in sooted, water-soaked scars. The Font, however, to everyone’s surprise the morning after the volunteer firefighters had done what they could, which clearly was not much after the lightning strike, stood unscathed. Not an ember had marred the Font, which that day earlier had dispensed its holy gift in the act of baptism.

I don’t remember what was happening, I was likely slumbering as the moon cast its ivory tendrils across the narthex. Then there was a burst, a flash of pure white light. Next, I heard the roof dwellers, a few of the chippy variety and their larger racoon kin yelp in fear. I know that Rod kept saying he was going to close their entry through the soffits … and yet every year he somehow continues to “forget” to do so before the snow falls. And by then, well you all know it wouldn’t be caring to eject the roof tenants as winter arrives.

The first person to note something was amiss at the neighbour’s church was Reverend Meadow. She was returning along the Reconciling Way, imagining those first tentative steps when the Fort first opened and the awkward relationship between settlers and the Indigenous people continued to unfold a century prior. She was lost in thought about the hurts done and the possibility for healing, when she recognised, there across the river, red flicking fingers rising along the Old Stone Church’s sister congregation. Reflection broken, 911 was instinctively called.

It had been a glorious day; my purpose was fulfilled once more. The community gathered to welcome a wee babe and her mother into the community. The ritual always leaves me filled with such joy. As the mark of the cross wetted both their foreheads, you could see their eyes alit, knowing that they were loved, by the hands that anointed them and the Holy who embraced them. No judgement, no scorn … they were who they were and grace and forgiveness ebbed from the water in the basin upon their brow.

The Chippy Kits

The Chippy Kits

Shock and anger followed the fire. While some gathered to pray, the community had already been through much that – initially – left them too vulnerable to see anything other than further loss. Even in the moments of song and silence, the rawness of the recent death of their spiritual guide, Deacon Stephen, made it difficult to see the possibilities that stood before them. And yet, even in the anger and tears, when tempers threatened, they returned to the Font’s discovery and their loss stumbled in what – only slowly – was shifting from disbelief to … wonder …



I could feel the water heating. When one is made from wood, stone and brass, heat and fire are clearly not good for one’s well-being. And then, just above me, the ceiling buckled with the proclamation of joists breaking as fire weakened what was once securely taken for granted. For the first time, since I was brought into the church over a hundred years ago, I could see the sky. What was even more startling, as I recall that night, is I had never seen stars except through the murky lead stained glassed windows. They reminded me of the tinsel that dresses the Christmas tree and candle light dances from branch to branch.

“Then – without warning or invitation, let me tell you – the chippy family fell into the embrace of the water that remained from that morning’s ritual. The mama and two kits, instinctively if I were to conjecture, submerged themselves with just their eyes and noses peaking out from the basin. With nervous chatter they cried as flames fed on the body of the church.”

“They watched, I think even prayed, that they would come out of this okay – the reality is there was nowhere to go. The raccoons had made it away, as we could see their lumbering-race-gait taking them to the river’s edge. But for those of us who remained, amidst the spiraling, swirling and leaping flames, I summoned that old sacred story by another river’s edge.”

“There the man in camel clothes bathed the One with holy water pure. And from the sky, She flew in the moment of anointing for all to awaken to recognising the Beloved. Ever since, I remember Deacon Stephen, telling those touched by my basin’s water, that they too were Beloved. And so, in that moment, I realised so too was this family whom I held with just the prayer of water in the midst of fear. So, we prayed, until the flames subsided, and the people came stumbling to see what was left. They came to an abrupt staring stop when they saw the four of us. Where tears and murmuring of loss and anger intermingled, silence shouted gracefully as we looked at one another after the fire that changed so many of us …”