Ocean City Today
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St. Paul’s opens addition to begin new chapter

By Greg Ellison | May 03, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison The Right Rev. Santosh Marray, Bishop of the Diocese of Easton, blesses congregation members at St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 302 Baltimore Ave, on Saturday during the Blessing of The Fellowship Commons, a two-story addition built to replace a portion destroyed by fire in Nov. 2013.

(May 4, 2018) St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church at 302 Baltimore Ave. celebrated a rebirth Saturday during the Blessing of The Fellowship Commons, a two-story addition built to replace a portion destroyed by fire in Nov. 2013.

The ceremony was lead by the Right Rev. Santosh Marray, Bishop of the Diocese of Easton, and church rector Father Matthew D’Amario, along with St. Paul’s Vestry wardens.

The recently completed 2,300-square-foot addition fills the void left after the 2013 fire that began when John Sterner, 56, burst into the Shepherd’s Crook Ministry, a food pantry operated from the rectory, smelling of gasoline and set himself on fire.

The ensuing blaze, just two days before Thanksgiving, took the life of church pastor Rev. David Dingwall and left church volunteer Dana Truitt critically injured with third-degree burns.

John Knotts, senior church warden, said despite the dark history, a new chapter is now being written.

“The best thought is we are finally able to open this building since the disastrous fire,” he said.

Also on hand was Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (R-38C) who said the event united congregation members with a larger body of residents to forge a new path.

“This is a joyful day and it’s wonderful to see the entire church community, and the community in general, come together to celebrate the opening of the church,” she said.

Karen Gordon, a decade-long congregation member, distributed orange ribbons in remembrance of Rev. Dingwall.

“This is the finish of a long and painful journey that started with a fire,” she said. “Many people here have worked so hard to get it to this day, and I know Father David would be proud of us.”

Contractor Gillis Gilkerson broke ground last May on the project to replace the northwest section of the Gothic Revival wood-shingled church that housed the original rectory, which was razed in May 2014.

Despite a few unexpected challenges, Knotts said work wrapped up fairly close to the original target of early February.

“It actually took a littler bit longer, but then there was stuff we didn’t anticipate,” he said. “When they dug down to lay the foundation for the elevator, they ran into water.”

Additionally, related repairs were made inside the main church structure.

“Construction on the Eastern Shore … we all know how that goes,” he said. “It took about a month and a half longer than we anticipated, but the wait was well worth it because the building is beautiful.”

The Fellowship Commons is equipped with a larger, more modern elevator, additional storage space, a new ground level lobby, gathering space at the sanctuary level, a meeting and conference space, a new driveway and additional restroom in the parish’s community hall.

“We built this and this is our future,” Knotts said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

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