FLOCK REELING AFTER FIRE DESTROYS CHURCH
The building served First Congregational since 1863
Members of First Congregational Church of Spencer will be gathering for service in a town over for the foreseeable future, but the congregation hopes to return to the community again someday, its pastor says.
A six-alarm fire destroyed First Congregational on Friday, and on Saturday, state fire officials confirmed a lighting strike caused the 160-year-old church in the small central Massachusetts town to go up in flames.
Church members are invited to attend service at First Congregational Church-Leicester at 10 a.m. Sunday, Rev. Bruce MacLeod told the Herald on Saturday.
“The folks from Spencer don’t want to abandon the community of Spencer,” said MacLeod, who also leads the Leicester church. “What we’ll be figuring out over the next months and years will be ‘How do we do that? Do we do some rebuilding?’ I don’t know what it will be.”
MacLeod called the Spencer congregation small, with about 30 active members, but one that is “really busy and active.”
The church hosted a volunteer-run thrift shop and food pantry, he said.
First Congregational has taken up the property at 207 Main St., in Spencer, since 1743, with the original church building a little bigger than a barn, according to the congregation’s website. In 1862, a fire destroyed a larger church building built in 1772.
The church had served the town of nearly 12,000 since 1863.
MacLeod received a call, while at home Friday afternoon, from an administrator informing him that “the church was on fire,” and “it was bad.” After a half hour commute, he said he arrived at the church about five minutes after the steeple fell.
The pastor stayed at the site until after midnight when a demolition crew finished razing the rest of the building.
“It is devastating, obviously, for the church members for whom this building has been their repository of their encounters with God,” MacLeod said. “We will spend the time grieving that and seeking the comfort of God. I definitely believe God is in the midst of this to help us pick up the pieces.”
Church leaders from Mary Queen of the Rosary, just a half mile away from First Congregational, and other area parishes have offered MacLeod facilities his congregation could use in the interim.
By Saturday afternoon, MacLeod said he had spoken with colleagues serving churches that had fires. He is considering reaching out to Faith Lutheran Church in Cambridge, destroyed during a six-alarm fire on Easter Sunday.
“It’s just amazing, to me, how people are pulling together, especially in this day and age when there’s so much division going on in the world and people can’t agree with anything,” MacLeod said. “That’s not the issue at the moment. People are just stepping up asking ‘How can we help?’ ”