Thorndike church to rebuild after fire

8:45 PM, Dec 29, 2011   |    comments
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THORNDIKE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- By all accounts, the Thorndike Congregational Church is a "total loss" after a fire Wednesday morning, but church members prefer to think of it as "under construction."

The pastor and parishoners said they plan on rebuilding the church in the same location, using as much of the remaining structure as possible.

"So many people that worked hard back in 1908 to build this building here, it's just where it belongs, it's the center of town," said Deaconess Patricia Banker.

A church leader for 20 years, Banker's ties to the congregation go back even farther.

She said one of her happiest memories is watching her parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and renewing their vows at the Thorndike Congregational altar.

At that same altar her sister, Jacquie Ludden, exchanged her vows.

"Very special, to walk up the stairs here and down the center to my husband in the church that I grew up in, was baptized in, it meant a lot -- an awful lot to me," said Ludden.

Ludden, the church treasurer, said it's a small congregation -- just 35 members -- but one with a rich, 103 year history.

Pieces of that history now preserved -- after the Thorndike Fire Chief, Pete Quimby, directed his firefighters to save church records dating back to 1908.

Quimby knew how important those records were. And he knew just where to find them.

That's because he, too, is a member of the church.

"The biggest advantage I had as the Fire Chief and as a member of the church was I knew the layout of the church," said Quimby.

"Because of that, I knew where the records for the church were stored."

Most everything else inside of the building has been destroyed.

The organ, pulpit, stained glas windows -- all charred, broken, and covered in soot.

But when you dust off the ashes from the pews, you find Holy Bibles: covers charred, but pages spared.

One of those bibles belong to Clyde Rumney.

The first church member to sift through the rubble, one of the first places he checked was in his pew -- the second from the back -- looking for his bible.

It meant a lot to him: a gift from the previous pastor.

Aside from a burnt cover, he can still make out every word of scripture. He has no plans to buy a new bible.

"It's going to be even more special now."

After he finishes cleaning up at the church, he'll have more work to do" set up for a church service at his basement.

He's having the congregation meet there, as they plan to fundraise for the new church building.

"The building may be burned, but the church is still alive," said Pastor Paul Press.

The church members plan on setting out donation cans in local businesses.


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