RANDOLPH - Every Sunday gets a little better for the parishioners of Grace Episcopal Church. There is still work to be done, however.
On Oct. 20, the Rev. Tom Broad was at the rectory next door to the Grace Episcopal Church eating dinner with friends when a neighbor ran over, pounding on the door, yelling that the church had caught on fire. Acting quickly, Broad ran inside the church to shut the doors, saving the sanctuary.
"I didn't even think about it at the time," said Broad. "When you are called into serving God's church and to serve God's people, you start realizing a place to worship is incredibly important."
Just 24 hours after the remainder of the Grace Episcopal Church had burned, parishioners, neighbors, firefighters, other priests and pastors — some of who came from as far away as three hours — packed the building to give worship and thanks.
No one was injured in the fire, but the church lost all of its offices, kitchen and restrooms. It will cost money to invest in temporary facilities. Underneath the building lies a basement in the process of being refurbished to allow the church to function until the new fellowship hall can be built. The Grace Episcopal Church hopes to celebrate the reopening of its new parish hall next fall.
"We are working on cleaning the heavy smoke damage out (of the sanctuary), but we have been worshipping here every Sunday," Broad said. "And each Sunday gets a little bit better, but we have no other facilities at all."
Randolph churches boast a tradition of holding a chicken and biscuit fundraiser twice a year. The money raised typically goes to outreaches, charities, missions and sometimes the wider world. This time, however, the beneficiary will be the Grace Episcopal Church to help with expenses as the congregation rebuilds.
"We are thrilled that they are doing this. ... A lot of the work is volunteer labor," Broad said. "... But there will be a lot of expenses associated with that."
The Grace Episcopal Church is the oldest standing church in its original location in the Randolph area, with its cornerstone laid in 1879. The architecture is steamboat gothic, a style which was popular for 10-15 years during the time the church was built. The parish hall was built in the 1950s, and was totally gutted by the Oct. 20 fire.
The fundraiser will take place on Saturday at the Randolph Fire Hall at 70 Main St. in Randolph. Doors will open at 11 a.m. with serving until 2 p.m. Take-outs will be available and all tickets cost $8.
All Randolph area churches are involved to one degree or another in the benefit, but the ones involved the most are: Randolph United Presbyterian Church, East Randolph United Methodist Church and St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church.
The menu for the benefit will include chicken and biscuits with gravy, green beans, coleslaw, cranberry sauce, applesauce, beverages and homemade pies for dessert.
Anyone who cannot attend may send a donation to Grace Episcopal Church, 21 N. Washington St., Randolph, NY 14772.