BERKELEY (CBS SF) – Music echoing through the sanctuary of a Berkeley church Sunday marked the congregation’s recovery from a devastating fire.
It was just eight months ago that a massive three-alarm fire destroyed a large section of the First Congregationalist Church at 2345 Channing Way.
But Rev. Molly Baskett said she didn’t want to look back.
“There’s no going back after a tragedy, there’s only going forward,” she told KPIX 5. “There’s so much familiarity in the space, but it’s so new and beautiful – kind of has a fresh new skin.”
Baskett said there could be no better day than Pentacost Sunday to mark the congregation’s return.
“So today is the feast day of Pentecost,” she said “A nd believe it or not, the main symbol of Pentecost in the Christian church is fire.”
Sunday’s fire-inspired service came with a dash of hunor – orange and red balloons, fiery red rose pedals dropped from the balcony.
There were also prayers of thanks for the efforts of Berkeley firefighters who battled the flames.
“It feels like coming home again,” said parishioner Elizabeth Forsyth, who is the church’s organist. “We’ve been worshiping in a synagogue in North Berkeley. That’s been lovely, but it’s so great to be back.”
Phil Adams agreed.
“This is home,” Adams told KPIX 5. “This is where I met my wife, where I got married, where my sons were baptized. I just can’t say how much it means to be home.”
While the sanctuary has been repaired, the restoration is not yet complete. Officials still need to determine what they will do with the fire-damaged fellowship hall.
But on Sunday thoughts were focused just on the day. There were shared hugs, tears and communion.
“You know, we think when bad things happen that something has been done to us,” Baskette said. “But sometimes these things are done for us, and when there’s no loss of life we can take an occasion like this and become unmoored from old practices, and become something entirely new.”