Christians all over the world are celebrating Easter this weekend, which honors the resurrection of Christ. But the members of a congregation at one church in Ocean City, Md., will be celebrating Easter with heavy hearts, as they continue to grieve an unspeakable tragedy and strive for a symbolic resurrection of their own.
Last November, a homeless man with a history of mental illness doused himself in gasoline, walked into the rectory at St. Paul’s by the Sea Episcopal church in Ocean City and lit himself on fire.
The blaze damaged the rectory and the church itself and claimed the life of the homeless man and the church’s beloved pastor, Rev. David Dingwall.
The congregation made the decision recently to tear down the now charred and boarded up rectory, and in the interim they've been worshipping in the church’s parish hall using folding chairs instead of pews and pop-up tables in lieu of an altar.
Rev. Mark Cyr has been named the church’s priest in charge, and he says Easter will likely be a big benchmark in the long recovery process.
“On Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the “hallelujah, he is risen”, there’s absolutely a sense that we as a congregation and as individuals rising from despair into hope and new life and the blessings that God give us," says Cyr.
Grief counselors have been helping members in the past few months make sense of the tragedy, and Cyr says the congregation has banded together in such a way that’s helped the church continue many of the missions the late Reverend Dingwall set into action.