It had been a little before 1:00 A.M. when Larry Carson, the captain of the volunteer fire department, had called the Reverend Turley with the—news. By the time the fire truck had-reached the church the roof was already burned through. The crew had tried heroically, some even said foolishly, to save the furnishings, but all they had been able to salvage was the communion table. Four of them had wrestled the heavy table from the platform and out the back door minutes before the joists in the ceiling let loose releasing an avalanche of flame into the sanctuary. Searing heat belched through the back door, windows exploded from their frames and the fire gulped the night air. The fire fighters left the table where it was and drew back to watch helplessly as the ravenous blaze fed on the aged pews. In a matter of 15 minutes the roof caved in and within half an hour the last wall toppled over in a swirling cloud of orange sparks. “That’s the way it is with old buildings,” Carson had said. “They burn fast, hot and don’t leave much behind.”
Reverend Turley stood quiet and alone before rubble that had been his church. There was not so much as a wisp of smoke. The charcoal skeleton was cold . . . dead. Beyond that blackened desert the communion table sat on a little grassy hill. The side facing the building was badly scorched, the carved words, “IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME,” were stark against the blistered varnish.
News of the fire had traveled fast. One by one church members and curious townspeople began to gather. There were no suits and ties this morning, no clean dresses, no white gloves and polished shoes. People milled about talking in low tones, astonished at the devastation, wondering what would become of the congregation.
It was Ed Van Slyke that reminded Reverend Turley that it was communion Sunday. Ed was the head usher. It was he who made sure that bread and grape juice were available for communion and so, he said to the pastor, it made sense to him that as long as all the supplies were bought and he’d polished the altar cup—everything was in grocery bag in the back seat of his car—they may as well take communion. Anyway, the table was all they had left.