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'A continual reminder': Community members forced to adapt following Beiseker church arson

The remnants of the Beiseker Level-Land Seventh-day Adventist Church after a fire, determined to be arson, destroyed it in December. (Submitted by RCMP Alberta - image credit)
The remnants of the Beiseker Level-Land Seventh-day Adventist Church after a fire, determined to be arson, destroyed it in December. (Submitted by RCMP Alberta - image credit)

About a month-and-a-half after the Beiseker Level-Land Seventh-day Adventist Church was destroyed in a fire that the RCMP says was arson, community members have been forced to adapt as they continue discussions about rebuilding.

The historic church, about 10 kilometres east of the village of Beiseker, was an integral part of the community for 78 years before it was burned down on Dec. 20.

Pastor Rod Davis says, since then, services have resumed in an auditorium right behind the remnants of the church.

"It's a little difficult to come by and see the building in shambles there," said Davis.

"We're grateful that we have that building, but it's a continual reminder to us of what happened to our church building."

According to Wheatland County fire services, the church had been engulfed in flames by the time crews arrived in the morning of Dec. 20.
According to Wheatland County fire services, the church had been engulfed in flames by the time crews arrived in the morning of Dec. 20.

According to Wheatland County fire services, the church was engulfed in flames by the time crews arrived in the morning of Dec. 20. (Submitted by RCMP Alberta)

Before they were able to move services to the auditorium a few weeks ago, they were held in the homes of parishioners — a prime example of how the community has come together, Davis said.

"Many of our members had attended that church their entire lives. They have a lot of memories. Their important life events took place there, so it was a big loss for them."

This church fire was one of four that happened in Alberta in December, prompting provincial and federal politicians to speak out on social media.

A recent CBC investigation found 33 Canadian churches have been destroyed by fire since 2021. Of those, 24 were confirmed arsons; two were ruled accidental. Dozens more churches have been vandalized.

Shannon McQuaig grew up attending the Beiseker church. She said it was a safe space where everyone was made to feel welcome and loved.

She now lives in Lacombe, Alta., but her parents and extended family still attend. She said she'll never forget the call she received from her cousin the day it was destroyed.

"It was devastating," said McQuaig, through tears.

"My hope is that they rebuild and everything kind of goes back to normal for them."

Davis said there have been discussions about rebuilding, but they don't have enough information yet to make an official decision.

"We're just waiting on hearing reports back on insurance and so forth before we move ahead with solid plans."

RCMP said the arson investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact Airdrie RCMP at 403-945-7200 or Crime Stoppers.

For Davis, the result of the investigation won't make a difference with their situation — but he said he hopes the person responsible is identified.

"We do hope, for the sake of the community, that no more of these things will happen."