BY ARRON PICKARD
Not even a massive fire in 1987 could break the faith of the parishioners at the Church of the Epiphany in downtown Sudbury.
On April 14, the congregation of the Anglican church celebrated 100 years since the building was first dedicated in 1913. Parishioners celebrated that milestone with a special Sunday service. Five young parishioners were baptized, and a new chapel was blessed.
However, the church’s history dates much further back.
The first Eucharist was celebrated at the Larch Street location in 1883. The original church built on that land was an open-roof building that cost about $2,500.
The first official service was held in 1890 under the direction of the first resident priest, Rev. Charles Piercey, according to the historical information collected by the church.
The church was rebuilt as solid brick structure with local stone basement and stone trimming, and in 1913 it was officially opened for service and was dedicated on April 27. Two services were held that day, each drawing about 250 parishioners.
Not bad for a time when Sudbury’s population was about 4,000 in total, said Bishop Stephen Andrews, of the Diocese of Algoma.
“(The dedication in 1913) was an occasion that made a significant mark in the life of the community of Sudbury,” Andrews said. “What we are celebrating today is the time when the superstructure of the building was developed and its dedication.
“It was wonderful to see so many people come out and celebrate. Most of the congregation has strong family connections to the church. It’s not just an opportunity to celebrate this church as an institution, but to also celebrate the life of the church as it has been passed on from generation to generation.”
For Dorothy Larsen, 84, the Church of the Epiphany means the world. She said as far as she knows, she is the longest-attending member of the church. She first attended in 1955 after coming to Sudbury from England.
It was at the Anglican church where she married her husband, Svend Larsen, in 1959. It was also where her five children were baptized. And, now that her children are all grown and have families of their own, when they come home, they still like to attend Church of the Epiphany, said Larsen.
“A lot of people who have left Sudbury, and who come back to visit, have always said this is a welcoming church,” Larsen said.
The Church of the Epiphany survived two world wars, cycles of labour unrest and a disastrous fire, said Andrews. Fire gutted the church in 1987. It was started by a homeless man, and the flames destroyed the majority of its interior.
The man’s charred body was found in the basement, Andrews said.
“He was a sad, tormented figure. He was a struggling artist who had religious delusions, and for some reason felt compelled to incinerate himself inside the church.”
The fire tore through the church’s floor, causing it to collapse. The flames also claimed most of the “beautiful” stained-glass windows, except for several that were reincorporated into the church when it was rebuilt, Andrews said.
This article appeared originally in Northern Life (2013)