NORFOLK, Va. – For more than a year now, members of Royster Memorial Presbyterian Church have been encouraged to pray for someone they can’t put a name or a face to – the arsonist who set fire to their church.
It’s one of many exercises in faith the Rev. John Monroe has tried to pull from the ashes of a May 2012 fire that badly damaged the place of worship built in 1941.
The sermon Monroe’s working on now will speak to the struggle, and the victory, of the church’s recovery. He will deliver that message next Sunday (June 23), the day the congregation celebrates completion of nearly $2 million in repairs to the worship center.
“The saddest thing has been that someone could be so lost in life that they would do something like this,” Monroe said. “I hope that something will turn them around.”
Workers are still doing the final tasks, and the sounds of construction float over the building. As Monroe opens an interior door to the sanctuary, the drills and other noises fade away, replaced by an anthem the organist is practicing.
The majestic sounds of the pipe organ fill the vast worship space. Sunlight pours in through arched windows onto the cavernous room’s ivory walls.
It is a long way from the blackened destruction that members faced 13 months ago. “This sanctuary looks better than it has since I’ve been here,” said Monroe, who has been with the church 23 years.