On Wednesday, Jan. 25, fire officials from Madison, Orange, Stanardsville and Ruckersville responded to a fire in the sanctuary of the approximately 140-year-old Wolftown church, Rose Park UMC. The fire was deemed as arson and the perpetrator has been charged. A prayer vigil was held Wednesday night at Madison United Methodist Church. Rose Park is part of the Madison Charge, along with Madison UMC. The two churches share Pastor Elizabeth Petry.
The fire at Rose Park caused significant damage to the church’s sanctuary. Church leaders are continuing to assess the damage, and we anticipated that it will take a considerable amount of time to repair and rebuild.
We thanked those who came to their aid in a statement released Thursday. “Our church is a family of faith, and we walk together in forgiveness knowing that this fire was an act of an unwell mind and not necessarily that of an evil heart,” the statement read. “As we work to rebuild on the loving legacy left to us by Captain and Mrs. William A. Rose and the many faithful congregants that have come after them, we ask that those who wish to help, lift us up in prayer.”
As shared in the Madison Eagle Newspaper, “On her blog, Daily Blessings, Pastor Liz wrote, As I prepared to go and walk inside Rose Park, I had many apprehensions. I was filled with sadness and my steps were heavy. I crossed the threshold and saw the darkness and smelled the lingering smoke in the air. At first, it is hard not to get lost in the immense damage caused by the fire. I’m sure each of us had certain things to check for damage, but as I approached the altar, I found joy.”
“On the altar I found the Christ candle gleaming, white and unmelted, standing among the ashes and misshapen, discolored altar cloth.” Notice that the altar candles are completely gone.
“Despite the evil forces at play, the light of Christ stood firm,” she wrote. “The only blemish was a small piece of debris sitting atop the candle. All of the brokenness and darkness of this world are represented by that small piece of debris. No matter the adversary, the power of God through the resurrection of Christ overcomes even death.”
“We have found beauty among the ashes,” Petry added. “We will rebuild and stand among the oaks of righteousness because we are solidly founded in Christ no matter what hardships come our way.”
In our time of challenge, God continues to bless us in so many ways. No one was hurt in the fire and our place of worship still stands. For several years, we had a Jesus doll who graced our sanctuary. We found Jesus in a melted blob on top of the piano and sadly declared him a victim of the fire. On Saturday, Cori and Devon, who had been helping us complete an inventory and photograph the contents of the sanctuary, happened to walk into a thrift store that had just opened in our tiny community. As they wandered around the shop they came to a rounder filled with clothing. On the shelf in the center, sat Jesus, clean and pristine. “. . . and on the third day, he arose from the dead.” God’s mysterious ways in action!
Original Jesus sitting on the podium
remains of Jesus
New (resurrected) Jesus found in thrift store
This same young man decided to create a memorial album of the photos that he took so that all could see and remember this day. Devon, a high school Junior at Madison County High School, created his booklet with the grace, sensitivity, and maturity of one beyond his years. Among the pictures, he and his mom placed passages of scripture that he found spoke to the moment.
Another blessing is the tremendous outpouring of love and support from our local community has been tremendous. Our sister church, Madison UMC has graciously allowed us to meet and plan for our future, as well as, inviting us to join them in worship. We will continue to worship at Madison UMC until we can resume worship in our Rose Park Fellowship Hall. Power was restored this week and we are working to ensure that the air is clean and safe to breathe for our members before returning there. Many other individuals and churches in the area have offered space and resources, and are even holding fundraisers to support our efforts of restoration. We are God’s people coming together to find hope in Christ for a new day.
The Rose Park family of faith is strong in their faith, and we know that with God we will overcome this challenge. We have shared many of God’s words over these past few days, but this one reminds us that our future is blessed. “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.
Donations will be graciously accepted by check or online giving. We are also in need of Pew Bibles, Hymnals, a piano, and an organ if any congregation has any to share.
Rose Park UMC, 318 Shelby Rd., Wolftown, VA 22748