January 11th marked one year since the historic Murray Church was destroyed by fire.
In the aftermath of the blaze, encouraged by people from across the country who were dismayed by the tragedy, the community decided to undertake a fundraising campaign in an effort to reconstruct a replica of the landmark building.
Linda Baird, Chair of the Trinity United Church board, the church which oversees the fundraising, says there has been a steady show of support. Something that was not surprising to her given that the church was still playing an active role in the community. In recent years it had been the location of numerous weddings, a concert, a quilt show and more traditional activities such as Christmas Eve services.
“The nice part of all this is that we’ve had people who have stepped up and said when the rebuilding begins that they will be ready to help out and make donations in kind,” said Baird.
The GoFundMe currently tallies monetary donations at $105,479 with more coming in on a regular basis.
Fundraising chair Christina Miller said they are looking towards a $180,000 goal before the ground breaks, though building plans have been drawn up and permits will be the next step in the process,
There’s a certain amount of serendipity at play, despite the terrible circumstances of the church’s loss. Through a grant from Canada 150, funding had been provided, which was used to repaint both the inside and outside of the church, repair walkways in the cemetery, place a memorial stone for those interred in the cemetery in unmarked graves, and replace and repair the church windows. The memorial stone was undamaged, and because of the plan to replace the windows, there are precise measurements of the originals which can be used to ensure an exact re-creation in the new church.
Susan and Glenn Parkinson of Twin Willows Glass Arts had previously replaced the original stained-glass window which had been broken many years before. While the window they provided was lost in the fire, the Parkinsons still have those measurements and have agreed to provide all the stained-glass windows for the new church at material cost.
“Everything will look exactly the same inside and outside except the pews won’t be the same, and it won’t be milled lumber from the Merritt area. All of the original lumber was cut and milled here in the Nicola Valley. But we have architectural drawings now, and it will look the same,” said Baird.
And despite the pews being a different style, Baird explains that there is a blacksmith in Princeton who forges square head nails that will be used in their construction, just as they would have been 153 years ago. While it would be impossible to recreate more than a century’s worth of history, this level of attention to detail is borne of a great love and respect for a fixture that predates even the City of Merritt itself.
If you wish to make a donation you can visit the Murray Church GoFundMe online, use the account at CIBC, or mail donations to Trinity United Church, P.O. Box 175, Merritt BC, V1K 1B8. Tax receipts will be issued for donations over $20.