CLEARFIELD -- Dressed in jeans and a light blue, buttoned-up shirt, the pastor strode down the sidewalk in the soft breeze of a late-spring morning, his church towering in the background.
But no sermon was to be given on that day. No congregation was bunching together on worn benches in the chapel, and no hymns were to resonate through the church's halls.
Instead, charred remains dangled on the western wall of the section of the church that was still standing. What was left of the western wing that had housed the chapel had been reduced to concrete foundations hulking out of the surrounding brown earth.
It had been nearly three months since much of Clearfield Community Church, at 200 S. 500 East, had perished in a large blaze, and Pastor John Parsley was there, in front of the backdrop of the seared skeleton of his church, explaining that his congregation has become strengthened through the struggle of the last few months.
"Faithfulness, faithfulness, faithfulness," Parsley said of his congregation, which now meets a few blocks away at Wasatch Elementary School. "They've continued to worship, we've continued our ministries with one another and our outreaching into the community. That's kind of the way they're wired. We're here to serve and to be Christ's reflection wherever we are."
If there were a physical, breathing representation of the congregation's resilience, Bill Storing would be it. Even as he watched the flames overwhelm the church, of which he's been a member since 1973, Storing peeled his focus away from the destruction and onto the opportunity that would follow to rebuild the church.
"I can say that it was very emotional for some people," said Storing, co-chairman of the church's building committee that has been working with the architects of the restoration project. "I was partial to the part of the building that burned down. But I transitioned from 'How the heck did it catch on fire?' to, 'OK, we'll do it better this time.'
"The initial reaction is what you would have in any kind of problem like that. But one of the things we've noticed is it brings the congregation together, because you have a common cause -- a very clear common cause. And that's to rebuild the church."
Since the March 19 fire destroyed the western wing of the church and damaged much of the rest of it, Parsley has reflected on his role in helping the church and its members move forward. He's grateful that faith overflows from his flock, and he knows the congregation will follow where he leads.
"My job is to keep the flock encouraged and motivated and not to lose heart," Parsley said. "Jeremiah 29:11 has kind of been one of our watchwords. God said to the exiles of Israel, 'I know the plans I have for you. Not for ill, but with a future and hope.' That's paraphrased, but that's how we look at it."
The plans to rebuild the church are well under way, and that, Parsley believes, is one reason God put him at the head of the church in 2008, after he had served for decades in Indiana.
"One of the things I did while I was (in Indiana) was be involved in a building project," Parsley said. "I said when I came here that I was not interested in building another building. Never say never, because we've kind of laughed at that. God put me in a place with a little experience and some background with this. I kind of know what we're getting into and what the project means."
Standing outside a fence that guards the site of the church, Parsley acknowledged it was an exciting time in the church's restoration. The clean up and tear down of the burned remains had been finished. From then on, the task would be building, erecting and creating. From the grounds of what was left of the old church, a new church will soon rise, and a smile slides onto Parsley's face at that prospect.
"We're dreaming about how the love of God will be shared here and will be made known here," Parsley said. "That's part of the excitement."
That excitement has eased the pain that seared in the days and weeks following the fire. Even so, Parsley knows the rebuilt church won't bring back everything that was lost. The blaze engulfed irreplaceable stained glass depictions of Bible scenes members had made, and there were pictures and news clippings that perished alongside them.
Mostly, Parsley and the members of his congregation will miss the old church because of the memories that were made there.
"People's families were baptized, married, buried from here," Parsley said. "Weddings, funerals, baby dedications and baptisms all happened in there. And all those memories, that's what they are -- memories."
Other memories will be made in the new church, of course, and knowing that provides comfort. Parsley hopes the rebuilt church will be completed by fall 2014, and he's sure it will serve the next generation of followers as well as the old church had served for so long.
"One of the things that was a realization for me is this building is not for me," Parsley said. "It's for the next pastors that come, whoever he or she will be, and for the next generation. We're building it for them, with them in mind. I think it's exciting."