NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Sunday should have been a day of worship at Saint Mary Magdalene Church in the Springfield Gardens section of Queens.
Instead, it was a time for parishioners to mourn the loss of their beloved church building, which was destroyed by fire over the weekend.
Parishioners couldn’t believe their eyes, seeing their beloved church burned to the ground. Saint Mary Magdalene, a neighborhood institution since 1927, was decimated by smoke and flames in a fire Friday night.
“I think it’s a crying shame – there’s no other words to really describe it,” parishioner Gordon Price said.
“I have been coming to this church for 40 years. All my children were at this church,” Edith Bennett said.
Bennett and her son took flowers to Sunday services, held in a nearby school gymnasium. It was the first service since the blaze, as the church in Springfield Gardens – predominantly African and Caribbean American – rejoiced.
They found solace in a painting of Mary Magdalene, which was charred in the fire but saved.
“It’s a small parish, and everybody knows each other,” parishioner Evelyn Campbell said. “If you’re missing, they know you’re not there.”
The inside of the church was destroyed – musical instruments and religious artifacts are gone – but the spirit of the church lives on.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, and firefighters continued their investigation on Sunday. Wooden pews fueled the flames, and just a few stained glass windows remained intact.
Members say they’ll rebuild, because there are too many memories to let slip away.
“We got married 30 years ago,” parishioner David Wilson said. “That’s where our first date was 32 years ago.”
One hundred firefighters from 20 units battled the blaze, but the building was destroyed in just a few hours.