Nova Scotia

Healing service held in North Preston after church fire

About 250 people mostly dressed in white attended the service at community centre close to St. Thomas United Baptist Church, which caught fire last week.

About 250 people attended service at community centre near St. Thomas United Baptist Church

Congregants dressed mostly in white at healing ceremony. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

The congregation of St. Thomas United Baptist Church attended a special healing ceremony Sunday at the community centre across the street less than a week after their church caught fire.

About 250 people attended the service, mostly dressed head to toe in white. 

"That's only a building across the street," Pastor Wallace Smith Sr. said during the service. "We are the church."

Ceremony in works before fire

The church caught fire on Wednesday and officials believe it was caused by a faulty motor that ran the air exchange. 

The service was planned before the fire to acknowledge the families from the community touched by gun violence.

"There was a lot of shooting and a lot death last year. Kind of tragic and a lot of young men lost their lives and a lot of families still grieving and still hurting," Wallace said.

Wallace said the fire wouldn't affect his sermon much, but he planned to provide a bit of an update on the situation.

"There's a lot of smoke damage, there's a lot of water damage and there's quite a bit of fire damage in the back end so we're not sure how long we're going to be out. I'm thinking three months, maybe more," he said.

Maureen Smith, who has lived in North Preston her entire life and has been a part of the St. Thomas United Baptist Church for 40 years, was one of the hundreds of people in attendance at the service. She said she was grateful to have the healing time.

'I feel blessed today'

"I feel blessed today to be here and to be a part of this today and I know that people are leaving this place today being refreshed, being healed, being delivered and being set free by the almighty God," said Smith.

"The church is the home of our community and that's where we go as a family. We meet every Sunday and we worship together, we pray together, we sing together, we enjoy each other's company together."

'The fire just made us stronger'

The fire, Smith said, has brought the community closer together.

"The fire just made us stronger. It's just going to bind us closer together than we ever was. The building is just a building, but the people. We thank God no one got hurt, but the people are the church."

The church is 161 years old this year, and expanded from a single-room church, with renovations done in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 2003. 

Rev. Wallace Smith Sr. said he isn't sure how long it will take to repair the damage to the church. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

With files from Nic Meloney