Close to 200 St Philomena's Catholic Church members gathered for prayers and hymns yesterday as they coped with a testing time.
The 50-year-old New Plymouth church, in Brooklands Rd, was destroyed by fire on Monday, leaving the Catholic community devastated by the loss.
Church members packed inside a St Pius X classroom as they sang The Lord Is My Shepherd and Though the Mountain May Fall, while rain fell steadily outside.
Those who could not fit inside the room stood outside with umbrellas, their voices sombre.
Bishop Owen Dolan said this was "such a sad time" for those who had lost their place of worship.
New Plymouth resident Syd Wells has been part of the Catholic community for 46 years, attending St Philomena's for about 41 years and St Joseph's Parish for five.
Mr Wells told the Taranaki Daily News the incident was pretty traumatic. "I have been involved with the school and the church. My children attended St Pius when we first moved to New Plymouth."
Mr Wells said the church would be able to rebuild as long as there was community support.
Organist Joe Hignett has been with the church for more than 20 years and said the fire had left him both "sad and devastated".
"I played the organ for the last time on Sunday," Mr Hignett said. "I didn't think it would be the last time."
The First Noel and Joy To The World were among the two hymns Mr Hignett played on Sunday.
"The church is a good place for reflection and peace," he said.
The tragedy "struck deeply" with church member Michelle Politakis and she said there were "a lot of tears" when she heard about the fire.
"This was a place we come to for nourishment," Mrs Politakis said.
"An elderly lady told me this place has changed her life, she comes to masses in the mornings, and now her faith, her world, has been turned upside down."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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