THORNDIKE — The century-old Thorndike Congregational Church was destroyed by fire early Wednesday morning, and trustees say they will rebuild.

Church trustee Clyde Rumney said the damage to the church from the fire, which was first reported at 4:15 a.m., is so bad that what’s left has to come down. The church is insured.

“It’s shocking to see,” Rumney said. “This is God’s house.”

Thorndike Fire Chief Peter Quimby said when he and other firefighters arrived, the back side of the church was fully involved.

A steady stream of visibly shaken parishioners arrived during the day and stared in disbelief at the town landmark that served 40 members. Some cried and hugged each other as firefighters poured water on smoldering walls and furniture.

Longtime parishioner Jill Bailey had tears in her eyes as she said the scene reminded her of when her own house burned.

“This is so hurtful to see,” Bailey said.

Quimby said the fire was extinguished quickly by members of seven area fire departments.

The two-story church is still standing, but gutted.

Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state fire marshal’s office said the cause of the fire was an electrical malfunction, determined by an electrical inspector at the scene Wednesday.

He said it began between the basement and first floor near the rear of the church where the pulpit is located.

Quimby said that no one was in the church at the time of the fire. The church is on Brooks Road and is next door to the fire station.

A gaping hole in the rear of the church left after a wall collapsed revealed blackened pews, a burned pulpit, organ and chair used by the Rev. Paul Press.

Many of the building’s stained glass windows were shattered. Most of those that weren’t were darkened from the smoke.

The fallen wall had a painted cross on it, but the fire had destroyed the painting. The church’s steeple, which houses a bell, was scorched.

Quimby said that church records were saved from the front of the church. They are also trying to determine how to salvage the bell and the remaining stained glass windows.

Bailey said that she has a more than 40-year-history with the church. She was married there, her children were baptized and she taught Bible school. Her friend Gayle Penney, distraught, said that she attended the church and played Mrs. Claus for the children at Christmas.

Church Deaconess Patty Banker said later Wednesday that she was not sure what the timetable will be for rebuilding the church.

She said services Sunday will be at a parishioner’s home in East Thorndike. The trustees plan to have a meeting after the service to discuss the decisions that need to be made, she said.

While she felt terrible about the fire, Banker said, “I’m thankful that no one was hurt.”

David Leaming — 861-9255

[email protected]

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