On Tuesday, a devastating fire consumed First Baptist Church in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The beloved building was 150-years-old and will be deeply missed by the community. It is believed that it was a lightning strike in a powerful storm that caused the church to go down in flames. While church members mourn the loss of the building, they are finding comfort in one object that did survive the destruction.
According to USA Today, a painting of Jesus was somehow left unscathed. To the surprise of church members, neither the fire or even the water used to extinguish the flames was enough to damage the piece of art. The painting depicts Christ crucified, with his arms outstretched. Church members are taking this as a sign that even though their physical place of worship is gone, God is still present in their lives.
It’s “a beautiful sign of hope and a reminder that Jesus is with us,” Church member Maria Kakolowski said. “Even though our church building is gone, our church is here and the God that we serve is still here.”
Wakefield's historic First Baptist Church was ravaged by fire Tuesday evening. But this painting of Jesus was somehow left unharmed by fire, smoke, or water. https://t.co/5qj2vIA29s pic.twitter.com/9wJF1OjmJn
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) October 24, 2018
The painting, which was removed from the debris, has long hung on the church’s front doors as a focal point for all who enter. It will now be given to a former pastor of the church for safekeeping.
Wakefield Fire Chief Michael Sullivan, who was present the night of the fire, said that it took over 100 firefighters to extinguish the flames. Despite their efforts, the fire spread quickly, consuming the entire building. He is calling the church a complete loss. Unfortunately, the building is past the point of restoration and will have to be torn down.
Susan Auld, who was once the pastor at First Baptist Church, recalled her horror at seeing her church burn to the ground. “When the windows were all aglow — every stained glass window was aglow — it looked like you were looking into hell,” she said. “It was just an awful, awful sight.”
Today, the community of Wakefield is grateful that no lives were lost due to the tragedy. They recognize that the situation could have been far worse if the Wakefield Fire Department had not been so quick to act. Despite their sadness at the loss of the church, they are joined together by the bond of faith. First Baptist Church members plan to continue their efforts of evangelism and are strengthened by having a small part of the building to remember the past.