PEPPERELL — This Easter is a particularly special day for parishioners of St. David’s Episcopal Church at 180 South Road.
Not only will the Easter vigil celebrate Christ’s rising from the dead, but the vigil will be held in a resurrected sanctuary that was closed by fire more than a year ago.
”We’re hoping to get our occupancy permit this week,” Vicar Rev. Katherine Ragsdale said Wednesday. “We’re 98 percent certain we’ll have it by Saturday. If not, the vigil will be in the tent.”
The 150 to 175 St. David’s parishioners have been worshipping in a tent during fair weather months and in loaned space in area churches during the winter. Their building, a converted farm house, caught fire when a rodent chewed through an electric wire. The fire ruined Ragsdale’s office, the second floor, and part of the sanctuary.
Ragsdale said the Easter vigil is her absolute favorite service of the year. It begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, but does not continue until midnight due to the age of parishioners.
The vigil involves fire too, a small and safe blaze in an outdoor grill. The fire is used to light a pastoral candle which is brought into the pitch-dark sanctuary, purposely kept that way to symbolize post-Good Friday despair at Christ’s death. The candle symbolizes hope.
Ragsdale said parishioners and visitors are asked to bring penlights and bells with them to the service.
On Thursday, the altar was stripped of all decoration at 7 p.m. after a foot-washing service held as a sign of mourning. That Holy Week observance was followed by a quiet service on Good Friday at 8 p.m.
”The darkened sanctuary is a sign of mourning,” Ragsdale said. “We’re acknowledging Jesus has been killed. Before the Crucifixion he asked his disciples to stay with him. We try to enter into that moment.
”The lights grow as Easter morning dawns,” she said. Starkness and despair turns to music and joy. Bells will be rung with the singing of “Gloria.”
”Everybody is welcome,” Ragsdale said. “The Mass will be followed by a champagne, cheese and sparkling cider reception. It’s my absolute favorite service of the year. I live for it. I’m tired at the end of Holy Week but this pumps me up.”
Vicar Ragsdale said repairs to the sanctuary have been completed but not to the second floor of the church, which will be closed off.
”We plan to build a barn-like structure similar to the farm house that will become our new sanctuary,” she said. “We’re getting ready to launch a capital campaign to build it.”
An egg hunt will follow St. David’s Easter Sunday service.