On July 30, the skies above Irricana opened up and golf-ball sized hail battered the sides of the historic Irricana United Church along Highway 567. After the storm passed the church was left with broken windows, including parts of the century-old, stained-glass windows.
Adelia Wade, a congregation member with family ties to the area as old as the church itself, said her grieving began at 6:15 p.m. when a phone call from a family member informed her the church had been hit by the storm and was damaged.
The following morning just so happened to be a Sunday and Wade said she was still weighed down by grief and struggled to find the courage to go see the damage.
“It was like a death,” she said. “You grieve because you know it will never be the same.
“It may be fixed up, but it will never be the same.”
Margaret Cook, a congregation member for the past 20 years, heard news of the damage and arrived that Sunday morning with a broom in hand ready to pick up the pieces.
Even with the forewarning, she said could do nothing but stop as she passed through the doors and saw the shards of glass from the stained-glass windows strewn across pews.
“It wasn’t just confined,” she said. “Nobody could really sit down.
“I just had to take it in.”
When Wade was unable to go to the church the night of the storm, she said she called local rancher Doug Wray because she knew he would take care of what needed to be done.
Arriving with a group of four others, Wray said they worked hard to plastic up the windows in an effort to keep the elements out and residual damage down.
When he stepped into the church a bit late for service the next morning, he saw the members were already starting the cleanup efforts.
“People just roll up their sleeves and do what they gotta do,” he said. “Clean it up and carry on.”
The 20 church members present worked for about half-an-hour before someone asked Wade to play some music because it was time for them to gather.
The service went on amongst the wreckage as if nothing was different about this Sunday, Wade said.
Considering the substantial loss from the storm many church members experienced on their properties and farms, Reverend Ruth McArthur, who was away on vacation during the storm, said she was inspired to hear the service was still held and fellowship was shared afterwards.
“These things you can’t handle on your own,” she said. “That’s why we come together.
“It taught me exactly why we’re here.”
Estimates for the cost to repair the damage and an expected completion dates of repairs were not available by press time.