A small congregation in Cape Breton says it's thankful for their brand new church that sits on the site of what was utter devastation this time last year.

Last December a fire burned the 131-year-old church to the ground. Since then, members of the East Lake Ainslie congregation have been gathering for worship in a small hall.

Rev. Louis Ihasz said he's amazed with the building progress.

"I'm simply elated, it's the only word I can think of. It's just a tremendous, tremendous feeling. When I came in here today for the first time to see the church and it's completed and it's ready for us on Christmas Eve, just a few minor things to do. I'm simply elated. I've been smiling and grinning ever since I opened the door and came in," he said.

Clifford Collins is one of the 50 members of the small congregation.

'I'm simply elated. I've been smiling and grinning ever since I opened the door and came in.' —Rev. Louis Ihasz

He was baptized and married in the original church and volunteered to help organize the rebuild.

"It's kind of unbelievable that everything has fallen together so fast and things have gone so well," he said.

The congregation received insurance money, but also relied on fundraisers like a concert and bake sale.

"We wanted to build a building similar to the old church, which we've done. The outside shape of it is very much like the old church except the roof is lower. Inside of course is laid out different," said Collins.

The steeple is a replica of the original, but the interior has been modernized, complete with a new heating system. Wood salvaged from the fire will be made into a cross for the front of the church.

Ihasz said it's the best gift anyone could have hoped for.

"I think that people will be extremely, extremely happy, it'll be an extra special Christmas present for everyone, I'm sure," he said.

Parishioners are working on the final preparations to get into the new church for the Christmas Eve service.