Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We are not alone ...

Today in the court house in Minnedosa Lorraine McKay rose, and on behalf of the Board, the Congregation and the staff of Minnedosa United Church read the victim impact statement that had been prepared in early May.

She did an incredible job standing in a fairly full courtroom sharing the thoughts that Linda Bertram (the Board Chair), myself and a host of others helped to craft in an attempt to summarize the impact the fire of February 12th had on us and our community:

What follows is the statement:

Minnedosa United Church
PO Box 1499 Minnedosa Manitoba R0J 1E0
Phone: 204 867 2674 Fax: 204 867 1968
Email: mdsauc@mts.net
Web: http://minnedosaunited.blogspot.com/

May 10th 2006

To Whom it May Concern:

The Victims’ Impact Statement of Minnedosa United Church:

Dear Judge:

Early on in the days following the fire of February 12th 2006, that destroyed the 105 year old Sanctuary of Minnedosa United Church, a United Church clergy person described the role of the building in the life of the Church as the club house in which we store our stuff and gather to build our community. We have said over and over since the fire, that the Church didn’t burn, our building did. The Church is the people, not the building. Yet, within that statement is an understanding that the physical building, as a safe haven, as a sanctuary wherein we find God’s presence, as a physical presence in our community, is an important part of who and what we are as a Church.
As the early morning fire consumed the building that for 105 years has been the place where the community that is Minnedosa United Church gathered, worshipped and played, a wide variety of emotions washed over the people who stood quietly on the street horrified to witness the loss of our club house. Some of us wept, some of us shook our heads in disbelief, and some of us simply looked away. The process of assessing the impact of this fire on the community of Minnedosa, and the community that is Minnedosa United Church, has only just begun. It may take years before we fully realize what impact this fire has had on us, on our community and on our worship life. The loss of a heritage structure and its contents has been challenging enough; the loss of our spiritual home and the stored mementoes has only added to the feelings of outrage, grief and sadness that we continue to feel.
So, where do you begin to describe the impact that the destruction of a 105 year old sanctuary space has on the lives of the people who worshipped there, the community in which it stood and the people who looked to it as more than just a Church?
The wanton destruction of the building was bad enough. The gaping hole on Main St in Minnedosa where for over a Century, the building that housed Minnedosa United Church stood is a reminder of what once was, and what was lost. The loss of a sacred space has been significant and potent.
Also deeply connected to the physical loss of the structure is the very real threat the fire itself posed to the lives and safety of the Volunteer Fire Department members, and adjacent structures. The use of an accelerant showed a complete contempt for the Church building and a blatant disregard for the safety of the volunteer fire fighters from both Minnedosa and Rapid City who fought valiantly to save the building.
So how do we begin to put into words the impact this callous action has had on the people of Minnedosa United Church and the people of Minnedosa and beyond who looked to the building as something more than just a Church?

We could begin by tallying our losses, but in the long lists that we’ve compiled of lost items and treasures and mementoes we haven’t even begun to tally the impact of those losses.
How do we assess the loss of a Pulpit Bible that bore the names of six young men who died on the Battlefields of Europe and never felt the prairie sunshine when the war ended in 1918? How do we assess the loss of this Pulpit Bible, from a Church that no longer exists, that reminds us of the cost of war even in small towns like Minnedosa?
How do we assess the loss of banners, hangings, plaques and Honour Rolls that hung on the walls of the Sanctuary, given as gifts and memorials of those who no longer walk among us?
How do we assess the loss of the many stained glass windows that graced our sanctuary space that were donated over the years in remembrance of those saints who have gone on before us? How do we assess the loss of the physical windows as well as the hours of work and thousands of dollars that went into their maintenance and the recent restoration of the Minnedosa Pioneer Heritage Window that is now nothing more then a memory?
How do we assess the loss of shoes, toys and supplies for the children of Nursery School, Cubs, Guides, Beaver and Sparks? How do we even begin to explain to the children of our community the loss of the building and the treasures that are part of their lives? How do we even begin to tell a child the reasons for this callous and cowardly action that has deprived so many of so much?
How do we assess the loss of thousands and thousands of sheets of choral music purchased and gathered over the many years by the choir? How do we assess the loss of the anthems, the choir gowns and the mementoes and awards that have been earned and gathered by the various choirs that have filled the sanctuary and the community with music over the years? How do we assess the feeling of disconnectedness and homelessness experienced by the volunteers who serve in our choir? How do we assess the impact having to practice in one building, while worshipping in another has on those who for years have gathered and sung as a community within our congregation? How do we assess lugging boxes of heavy hymn books from one facility to another for practices and services?

How do we assess the challenges imposed upon the choir now with the loss of their vast repertoire of music? Today, when the choir is called upon to share an anthem at a Funeral or during a Special Worship service the ability to choose suitable pieces is severely hampered by the loss of their library through a cowardly action done in the cover of darkness.
How do we even begin to assess the impact this action has had on the volunteer groups like the AOTS Mens’ Club and the UCW within our congregation? Both groups have long histories of service and meetings within our building. In additions to the countless dinners, lunches and teas they have presided at for our community, the groups themselves have lost innumerable items and mementoes that mark their histories among us.
How do we assess the loss of the furnishings that were donated, created, restored and lovingly maintained by generations of people who gathered in this place? The list of lost items has grown very long. From hymn books to pianos, to pews to tables and pictures, as we remember our building, we continue to remember what it is that we’ve lost …
How do we assess the emotional impact of gathering in a borrowed worship space because a cowardly action deprived us of the place we called home for over a century?
Hundreds of weddings, baptisms, funerals and weekly worship services have been held in the Sanctuary. Thousands of sandwiches, cookies, cups of tea or coffee have been passed around the meeting spaces. Tens of thousands of memories have been lived and cherished since the doors of the building opened in 1901. Yet, within this, to say we lost a 105 year old building denies the reality of that space as a living and ever changing entity.
How many hundreds of volunteer hours have gone into the renovations and ongoing maintenance of the building?
How many thousands of dollars have been fund raised to pay for improvements and upgrades to keep the building current and community friendly?
How many community functions, gatherings and groups have been rendered homeless by the callous action of burning down the Church?

The list could go on and on. The question of “WHY?” looms very large in the hearts and minds of people who have called this building home. But no answer will satiate the ache that is felt every time we cast our eyes on the vacant lot on Main St and realize what it is that the Church and the Community in Minnedosa has lost.
We say that the Church is not the building, but in a time like this when a building burns and is lost, we begin to realize how important that building was.
It will take years to realize how fully the loss of the building has impacted us. Some moments where the impact of the fire hit home follow:

This past Easter Season, we were forced to gather to worship in the chapel of a local funeral home and in the elementary school. As the services drew near we faced the challenge of holding our services with the loss of many of the items we used in our worship. From the black clothes we drape over the worship space, to the rough hewn wooden cross that stood in the front of the sanctuary as a reminder of our Easter faith, many of the items we took for granted were gone.
This spring, many families in Minnedosa were inconvenienced by the loss of 1200 pounds of non-perishable food stored for the use of the Community Food Cupboard.
Resuming our Sunday School programmes will be a challenge with the loss of every craft supply, every resource, every curriculum and every shred of paper that had been gathered and donated over the years.
Every week we gather to worship in a Church that is not our own and we are forced to carry and move what we need to hold and celebrate our faith. Each funeral we are called to preside over presents a host of challenges as we have to move a wide variety of items for every element of the service and fellowship tea.
The loss of the building has been and continues to be an enormous loss. We will in time rebuild, but as we journey our way forward we find ourselves scrambling to continue to do what we were about in our life and ministry until the early morning hours of February 12th 2006 when the community of Minnedosa and the Church that is Minnedosa United, lost an old friend.
In the beautiful sanctuary of the building, and in its meeting spaces hundreds of thousands of hours of life, death and faith were shared, and while we say and believe the Church is NOT the building, the building was an important part of our faith journey together, and today we grieve its loss as we would grieve the loss of a friend.
As a faith community we gather in the face of loss and proclaim our certainty in the Resurrection. This is a fundamental understanding of our common Christian Faith. In times of distress we look to God for strength, courage and the first stirrings of the resurrection. We know that the resurrection will come. In this we ground our faith. But currently, as a community and as individuals we have found it challenging to simply pick ourselves up and move forward.
Our faith in God and the unfailing presence of God in our lives and in our faith community has been what since that bitter cold morning of February 12th, has helped us moved forward. In times of distress it is our faith that gives us the strength and courage to take the next step and to begin moving into the uncertainty of the future. Those who have never experienced a healthy, life giving faith may fail to comprehend the importance of faith beyond the institution of the Church, but for the community that is Minnedosa United Church our faith in God is what has carried us forward this far and will carry us along into the future that is unfolding around us.
There is little doubt that in time we will rebuild, and we will again have a place that is our own. But right now the ideas of resurrection, forgiveness and love are a bitter presence on our tongue. The hurt experienced by this senseless and cowardly act simply runs too deep …

The impact of this fire will continue for many, many months to rumble and resonate throughout our lives and the lives of those in the community who looked to the lovely old white church on Main Street for a myriad of things … This letter touches on those things that we had time to think of in the busy-ness of continuing to live and worship and function as a Church community. In the early morning darkness of February 12th 2006, a deliberately set fire burned the building that housed Minnedosa United Church to the ground. The building was lost, but the Church remained. The challenge we as a community of faith now face is continuing our ministry to the people of Minnedosa and area is continuing to worship and work without a sanctuary of our own in which we can gather and maintain the community that is central to our faith journey. That simple fact alone, impacts our lives and the lives of our community in ways we have only just begun to understand.
Perhaps one day those responsible for this fire will appreciate and understand the senselessness of their action and the depth of pain felt by those who called Minnedosa United Church home.

On behalf of the Congregation and the Board of Minnedosa United Church, we respectfully submit this letter as an attempt to assess the ongoing impact the fire of February 12th 2006 has had on the members, adherents and the community around our Church Congregation.

Yours Sincerely,

Rev. Shawn Ankenmann

Linda Bertram
Board Chair

Minnedosa United Church

Thursday, June 01, 2006

See you in the Fall ...

And so today my time of leave taking begins ...

This website will fall silent due to the conditions of understanding that have been crafted by the leave ...

My sister sites remain places where thoughts and comments will be posted. I invite you to come for a visit - stay awhile and browse my writings. In recent years I've discovered the importance of my writings as a means of self-care (I was a Blogger before blogging existed - I just did it in other forms ...).

So, for now - adieu ... keep me in your prayers ... keep the folks in Minnedosa in your prayers ... and we'll talk again soon ...

For now, grab a coffee (fair trade of course), hit the link buttons below and feel free to join me on the journey ...

Prairie Preacher at United Online:

Prairie Preacher:

It's been fun - thanks for the support ...