SOUTHOLD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island congregation is heartbroken after a fire destroyed their historic 19th century church.
Flames roared through the Suffolk County church on Saturday night, but on Monday church members were vowing to rebuild.READ MORE: Family Members: Woman Originally From Long Island Among The Missing In Florida Condo Collapse
Stunned church members walked the perimeter of the now gutted First Universalist Unitarian Church, among them Peggy Richards who had been staying at the parsonage next door after her own house burned down last month. She took a picture as she watched flames shoot through the steeple.
“I was just watching the embers fly over the church where everything that was donated to me since my fire was,” Richards said.
Long time parishioner Thornton Smith tried to absorb the loss of a church built in 1860, before the start of the civil war, as he mourned the many church treasures that were lost.
“An organ there, a lovely painting there behind the organ that is about a hundred years old,” Smith said.
The Southold Fire Department was working to determine the cause of the fire, but it is not considered suspicious. Firefighters and the pastor were able to retrieve the church bell, it is now being safeguarded elsewhere, as well as several bibles and ceremonial robes. The rest is rubble, but parishioners said nothing can replace their cherished memories.READ MORE: Woman Struck And Killed While Pushing Baby In Stroller In Queens
“This is awful, this is as much my home as where I stay and sleep. This church was a huge part of my life,” Alan Stewart told CBS2’s Scott Rapoport.
Everyone agreed that the good news is that no one was hurt and the church will go on.
“It’s important for us to remember that we lost our building, but a church is not a building,” Regan Batuello, Church Teen Advisor, said.
“The question is, are we going to rebuild this beautiful building the way it was or are going to go into the twenty-first century and build something else?” Laurie Ullman, President, Church Board said.
Right now, church officials say it is too soon to know what will be rebuilt, but for now they continue to mourn what can never be replaced.MORE NEWS: See It: Woman Steals Dog From Valley Stream Home
The church does have insurance, meanwhile Pastor Jeffrey Gamblee said services will be held on Sunday at the nearby Custer Institute, an observatory in Southold.