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ICC Note

A church in Canada is getting a taste of the type of persecution Christians across the world deal with on a regular basis after their building was set on fire.

Christian Post (02/15/06) – While three people have been charged with arson for setting a United Church of Canada in southwestern Manitoba on fire over the weekend, the congregation is counting their losses and moving forward.

In a Brandon courtroom on Monday, Kelsey Ray Taylor, 21, of Brandon; Mark Wishart, 20, of Minnedosa; and Deanna Lynn Matthews, 19, of Brandon were charged with arson for setting fire to and destroying the Minnedosa United Church on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 12.

There has been much mourning over the loss of the 105-year old church in the small community of Minnedosa , Manitoba , approximately 210 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg . And the realization that the fire was set intentionally has made the incident more difficult to grasp, the church’s head minister, the Rev. Shawn Ankenmann, told CBC news.

“Today, the Church in Minnedosa will weep at the senselessness of this…. Tomorrow we will begin to journey forward knowing that each step is a resurrection,” stated Ankenmann on an online United Church blog.

In addition, the reverend spoke on behalf of his congregation about the need to offer forgiveness.

“Voices were raised that we need to remember the message of forgiveness that is so much a part of who we are as a church, and there was agreement,” he told CBC news.

“It’s hard, and it hurts so bad. But obviously this is someone who needs help, and I hope they get it, personally,” he said.

The “immeasurable” losses, apart from over a century of memories, included the stain glass windows, Honour Roll Plaques, nursery, choir music, hymn books, a new organ and piano, the communion table, the baptismal font, and much more. The Church office, however, was not seriously damaged and items such as the computer, church records, and Ankenmann’s library of books, were recovered.

“It hurts. It will hurt more and more today as we count our losses,” stated Ankenmann on his blog, “but like the message of resurrection tells us with great certainty – we will count our blessings and we know that the [United] Church of Minnedosa stands unscathed.”

On visiting the site of the Church, which is now only a basement filled with ashes, glass, scorched wood, and rubble, Ankenmann noted the “strange peacefulness” and “awed reverence” of the scene.

“Perhaps it is because we are beginning to realize what we’ve lost, or perhaps it is because each visit leaves behind the memories that we will [draw] our strength from that will help us move forward,” he stated.

The Church has now started to move forward and has set up a new office across the street from the ruined sanctuary.

“The hard work has begun,” said Ankenmann.

On Monday, the Church Board gathered together for a meeting and read letters of support that they had received. The reverend expressed his thankfulness to the many letters, e-mails, and phone calls of prayer and support that have come in over the past days.

“All are appreciated,” he said.

The Minnedosa United Church was established in 1901 and had been an important social and religious gathering place for many generations in the Minnedosa community.

“It was such a special building,” Ankenmann told the Minnedosa Tribune, “It had such a warm, welcoming feeling.”

Though the tragedy of material loss was so great, the reverend continues to remain hopeful and has reflected on the true meaning of a church community.

“The Church is not a building; the Church is not a steeple; the Church is not a meeting place; the Church is a people,” he exclaimed.