[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal church in the Diocese of Arkansas was severely damaged by fire early June 26. It was at least the third time churchwide in a little over a month that an Episcopal congregation was left recovering from a blaze in its worship space.
The latest incident occurred in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where authorities were called to St. James Episcopal Church around 2:40 a.m. and found smoke coming from the building. No one was injured, and the cause is under investigation, the Eureka Springs Fire Department said in a Facebook post.
The department’s video from the scene shows flames suddenly bursting through the front door of the church as firefighters worked to extinguish the fire.
The Rev. David Angus, vicar at St. James, said in a post to the congregation’s Facebook group that a passerby detected the fire, which destroyed the inside of the church. “Prayers of gratitude for our fire fighters,” Angus said in another post. “Prayers for full recovery and restoration.”
A Diocese of Arkansas spokesman told Episcopal News Service that the church sustained extensive smoke and water damage and the organ was a total loss, though a fire marshal is optimistic that the building can be restored.
The fire at St. James happened a week after Church of the Messiah in Central Islip, New York, was gutted by an early-morning blaze June 18 that investigators attributed to an electrical fire. No one was injured. The Diocese of Long Island church dated to the Civil War.
“We are profoundly grateful for the prayers and offers of support from the neighboring community and across the diocese,” Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said in a June 21 diocesan update on Facebook. “To lose a historic church building is always painful to witness. In time, with God’s help, we will rebuild the worship space we lost.”
On May 22, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Douglas, Arizona, also was destroyed by a fire, along with a church-owned house next door. No one was injured. A suspect was later arrested and charged with arson.
After the fire, the congregation was invited to worship at the nearby Grace United Methodist Church in Douglas. On June 25, Arizona Bishop Jennifer Reddall celebrated Eucharist there with members of St. Stephens and then walked with the congregation to the site of the fire. She de-consecrated the grounds of St. Stephen’s so the remaining structure can be demolished.
“It was bittersweet as we remembered the services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and fellowship that the building housed for over 100 years,” the diocese said in a Facebook update. “And yet, as we prayed we were reminded that our church is more than a building, and we shall continue to prevail.”
– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at email@example.com.