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)

Hope photographer surprised to find historic church 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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UBC soccer star Victory Shumbusho offers one-on-one training for Chilliwack players

The Chilliwack FC grad believes players need more training to reach higher levels of soccer

Wings and Wheels fundraiser ready to roll in Abbotsford this weekend

Unique collection of cars invading Tradex for drive-thru experiences on Saturday and Sunday

Vedder River gets reprieve from gravel removal this summer

Applications withdrawn by river management committee and process concluded for 2020

Chilliwack-Kent Liberal riding association president resigns

Susan Mathies resignation follows MLA Laurie Throness LGBTQ controversies

One person dead after vehicle went over embankment on Coquihalla Highway

Trucker who was first on scene said vehicle was engulfed in flames near Great Bear Snowshed

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Man accused of killing Red Deer doctor says he does not remember attack

Appearing before a judge, Deng Mabiour, 54, rambled about being sick and needing a doctor

Fraser Valley Child Development Centre holds raffle for emergency fund

Fundraiser supports kids with developmental needs and their families

Driver maces pedestrian after hit and run in Langley City

Police were on the scene at Michaud Crescent Wednesday morning

Teen killer Kelly Ellard gets day parole extension, allowing up to 5 days at home

Ellard is serving a life sentence for the 1997 murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk

Andrew Scheer likely marking last day in House of Commons as Opposition leader

Today’s Commons sitting is one of two scheduled for August

Most Read