THORNDIKE, Maine — Last December, the Thorndike Congregational Church was reduced to a smoldering pile of rubble after a late-night electrical fire demolished the 103-year-old house of worship.
This fall, the new church is taking shape, with a framework of wood reaching into the sky and a fast-working crew of Amish men who have spent two days volunteering to help their neighbors rebuild in this tiny town of less than 1,000 people.
“Isn’t this awesome?” Hazel Rumney, the longtime church clerk, said Thursday while watching the men work putting on the new metal roof. “They’re fast and they’re quick, and they’re not scared of heights.”
Each Thursday, men from the 14-family Amish community in Thorndike and nearby Unity do a day of community service. Usually, they help others in their own community with their own projects, but they made an exception for the church.
Simon Stoll of Thorndike said that his neighbor, Larry Hustus, is a church trustee.
“He helps me a lot,” the Amish man said. “We just wanted to help him back.”
The half-dozen or so workers wore old-fashioned-looking garb and suspenders as they clambered with sure feet over the shiny metal roof. They said that the Waldo County Amish community was an offshoot of the community in Smyrna.
“This is basically where we could find land,” said Abner Stoll, who is originally from Ontario but now lives in Unity.
The men working on the church were mostly farmers, but it was obvious they knew their way around a construction site. One of the people marveling at the speed with which the roof was going up was Clyde Rumney, Hazel Rumney’s husband. Services were held at their home for a month after the church burned.
“The boys have been doing an awesome job,” he said. “We’ve got our fingers crossed that maybe in January or February we can have a meeting.”
But his wife hopes that the 30-member congregation will be able to use their church even sooner than that. Thanks to donations from near and far and help such as that offered by the Amish community, she said that it’s possible they might be able to hold a Christmas service there. Church members have been meeting in the Thorndike Town Office for the last 10 months or so.
“It’s not going to be finished. But if we could be in by Christmas, it would be great,” Hazel Rumney said. “Everybody in the community has been awesome as far as support and encouragement.”
The new church will look much like the old one, with a bell tower and a spire donated by a church from the town of China that had advertised it on the website Craigslist. Although the fire consumed nearly everything, firefighters were able to save the church bell and salvage the contents of the church office.
“Including a four-door file cabinet with 100 years of history,” Hazel Rumney said.
So far, people from around the area have donated $9,000 to the rebuilding effort, and neighboring churches have offered to hold fundraisers.
“We are tickled pink,” Clyde Rumney said of the help and caring from the surrounding community.
The contractor broke ground on the new building earlier this fall. Some changes include the fact that the sanctuary and fellowship hall will be on the same level, avoiding the need to construct a basement. There also will be a memorial garden on the foundation of the old church, adjacent to the new building.
“A lot of the town has said the same thing: when are you going to rebuild? What are you going to rebuild? Is it still going to be a country church?” Hazel Rumney said. “It’s exciting now that we actually see a building. It’s all coming together now.”