OCEAN CITY, Md. - A sad reality for members of Saint Paul's By the Sea Episcopal Church. December first marked the first Sunday service without Reverend David Dingwall, who was killed, just days before, by the flames of a church fire in Ocean City. WMDT was at the morning service, as the church community attempted to move forward from this tragedy.
Sunday service for Saint Paul's By The Sea didn't happen in a church, but in the Council Chambers at City Hall. A painful reminder of the devastation which happened just days before.
During the service, James Shand, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton said "this horrible event, across the street from this room, from these chambers, will live in our hearts and minds for a long time to come."
Tuesday, John Raymond Sterner set his clothes on fire and ran into the rectory of the Episcopal church, causing the blaze that killed him, pastor Reverend David Dingwall, and injured an unnamed volunteer.
In front of the congregation on Sunday, the Bishop acknowledged, "today is a time for mourning, and we must grieve."
From clothing, to flowers, and ribbons pinned to the shirts of members, Reverend Dingwall's favorite color, orange, filled the make-shift chapel, his widow, Brenda Dingwall, there among them.
The more than 100 churchgoers came not just to mourn the fallen pastor, but to remember him and his work.
"David's entire life revolved around respecting the dignity of every human being," says Brenda Dingwall, "this parish is committing to live that on and to continue to serve everyone, even, and especially people who are in trouble like the man who came in on fire."
This service falls on the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new year for Christian Churches. A time symbolizing renewed hope; a concept painfully relevant this year for Saint Paul By The Sea.
"For this congregation, it will be a really new beginning as they move on forward," says Bishop Shand.
While the church itself wasn't damaged by the fire, it did sustain significant smoke damage. Officials with Saint Paul's By The Sea anticipate it will be a few more weeks before they will be able to use the church.
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