Hope photographer Ray Daws was able to salvage a few charred pages of a Bible from the site of a burned church in Quilchena. (Ray Daws photo)

B.C. photographer surprised to find church built in 1876 destroyed

Church in Quilchena was set ablaze in January, but will be rebuilt

A photographer from Hope took a road trip, hoping to capture images of an historic B.C. church this weekend, but was shocked at what he discovered.

Ray Daws says he and his wife drove to Quilchena, just outside of Merritt, to photograph the Murray United Church, which was built 143 years ago. Instead, they found a charred building where the charming church once stood.

“To our dismay, we found a pile of ashes being combed over by the pastor and his wife (Jack and Mavis Polmans),” said Daws, who sometimes contributes photos to this newspaper. “Apparently the church was hit by an arsonist on Jan. 11, 2019, who also torched three other churches in the area on the same night.”

READ MORE: Arrest made after historic B.C. church hit by arson

Daws hadn’t heard the news earlier this year, and reached out to share his discovery with others in Hope who may not realize the landmark is no longer there. He also wanted to let people know that there are plans to rebuild the church and a GoFundMe is collecting donations toward the efforts.

“This may be a repeat story, however I thought it might be a good read for the people in Hope and they might want to contribute.”

And while he didn’t get the photos he had intended to take, Daws did leave with a memento of sorts.

“Looking through the ashes we found a few charred pages of a Bible that the pastor said we could have,” he said. And chances are, in years to come there will be a familiar site in Quilchena.

The GoFundMe was last updated in late July with a journal entry that says “building plans are now being drawn up in the progression of the rebuild!”

It doesn’t list an exact timeline for the rebuild, but says there have been “countless hours spent by members of Trinity United in Merritt, along with some very dedicated community members,” pushing toward the resurrection of the church.

The historic Murray United Church on Highway 5A in the Nicola Valley was built in 1876. It had recently been refurbished through grant money from Canada 150 and was more than a church to the small community, hosting antique quilt shows, weddings, concerts and more.

“The grant money was used to repaint the inside and outside, repair the windows and walkways of the cemetery as well as place a memorial stone of those in unmarked graves, in its small, but rich historical cemetery,” the GoFundMe explains. “This included over 2,500 hours of volunteer work, a three-year project that was just completed this last year in 2018.”

One of the features left at the church include its original brick chimney.

– with files from Canadian Press

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