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Source: (consider it) Thread: Fire drills/alarms and worship services
PataLeBon
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Our Pentecost was very interesting. One of the smoke detectors went off and since they are all linked (as they should be), all the fire alarms went off and we had to evacuate the church during Sunday School time (about 30 min before the main service).

It turned out to be a faulty detector, instead of the Sunday School teachers who were doing a Pentecost presentation on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (which includes lighting a candle for each of the gifts plus one for each child).

However, it brought up an interesting point, that we have never had a fire drill for people to know what the procedures are. We have written procedures, but we have never practiced them.

Has your church ever had a fire drill or practiced the procedures if there was a fire? Or do we all just assume that either (1) there won't ever be one, or (2) that adults don't need the practice?

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by PataLeBon:

Has your church ever had a fire drill or practiced the procedures if there was a fire? Or do we all just assume that either (1) there won't ever be one, or (2) that adults don't need the practice?

No, at least not en masse (and certainly not en Mass!). We've had a couple of interesting kitchen incidents, but those have been in the evening with just a small group present.

Given that the procedures are:
  • Gather up any children that you are currently responsible for
  • Go and stand in the car park
  • Wardens or designees sweep the building to check that it's empty
I think we probably assume we'll be OK.

Probably a greater risk around here is a tornado warning. I don't know that we have designated a shelter area, but to be honest, the whole church is much of a muchness as far as a tornado is concerned. The church hall is probably marginally superior, as it has the least glass.

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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by PataLeBon:

Has your church ever had a fire drill or practiced the procedures if there was a fire?

We were supposed to do one last week. But somehow we never got round to it. Which was fine by me as I was preaching that day.

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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leo
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One vicar in this diocese starts every service with an announcement about fire exits - rather like the drill that air stewards go through before take-off.

He does it because his last church burned down.

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lily pad
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We are mandated to do these at least annually with the whole congregation. Typically, it happens at the end of September just at the conclusion of the service. People who are there every Sunday have special tasks - like helping a choir member who has trouble with stairs get down from the choir pews and with leading the person pushing her elderly mother in a wheelchair.

There has been a learning curve but just thinking about it ahead and doing it a few times has helped people feel prepared should there be a real problem. We have snow on the ground for a large part of the year and snowbanks in the parking lot and streets so some planning is useful.

We also practice twice a year with the Sunday school alone. Everyone is told up front that there will never be surprise drills like they do in school so we either know ahead of time or it is announced that morning to the whole congregation, including the children, before the practice.

The big thing with the Sunday school is that there are lots of stairs and lots of children on several levels of the building. There is also the concern that parents will attempt to go to the classroom rather than to the meeting place outside. Each classroom has a list on a clipboard so that attendance can be taken at the start of the class and it is taken with the class in an emergency evacuation. Children are released from the meeting area to their parents with a signature next to the child's name. There is a primary meeting place and a secondary one that is much farther from the main building. The secondary one is in case the primary one is in danger.

In my experience, having a way to quickly evacuate from the building and reunite families is a worthwhile thing to set up and practice. At first, everyone said we already knew how to walk out of the building quickly but the practice showed up ways to make it a little bit safer and deal with issues that only became apparent by doing it.

To me, keeping it low key by not ringing an alarm and promising everyone not to ever ring an alarm for a practice has contributed to people accepting that this is a just a normal way to prepare ourselves.

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Anselmina
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I was nagged into fire-drilling all my churches last year by the clerical buildings inspector. So at the end of a particular service we all evacuated the building as if it was on fire, rather than because it was just the end of the service. Which it was. This involved everyone leaving the same way they came in and 'assembling' by the front gate, the places they normally would stand after a service for a chat.

No doubt if the front door had been inaccessible, we would've all left by the vestry door - that being the only other choice available.

Dutifully the wardens checked that no-one had magically materialized in the vestry or the toilet(for those churches so blessed); or got stuck under a pew. So apparently we met the requirements.

However. Later in the year there was much bemusement when the wardens discovered we were the only Union in the diocese to have done fire-drills.

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Og, King of Bashan

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I have never been through a church fire drill. We might actually be in some trouble if there were a major fire- we have two main doors, but things can get congested at the end of the service, and the handicapped exit uses an elevator. (The church had a major fire a few years ago, but it was after a service, when no one was there, so the exit strategy wasn't put to the test.)

My last place used to be frequented by dead horse protesters, especially on Palm Sunday, when they knew that we would be outside. After a particularly nasty year, we finally got a restraining order put in place. Even with the order, we were pretty nervous on the first Palm Sunday, given that we didn't know if they might try something to retaliate. In the middle of the passion reading, the fire alarm went off. Everyone was quite worried, and the rector suggested that we remain calm and stay in our seats until someone could determine what was going on. As it turned out, a small child had pulled the alarm accidentally. That kid will probably never scare so many people again in its life.

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Avila
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Where I was preaching yesterday morning there is only one door. Basic one room country chapel. Never done fire drill but it does have the legally important fire exit sign above it!

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Rowen
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We have just put a fire blanket on the shelf near the pulpit. Conscious of candles....
It seemed a sensible thing to do.

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busyknitter
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We had one a couple of years ago. I was one of the few people to be notified in advance so I could take my autistic son for a wee walk round the block just before the due time. He's rather sound sensitive and we all agreed that we'd wait till the next drill to find out how he copes with the alarm noise. Except that the next drill hasn't happened yet......
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Zappa
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In New Zealand it is compulsory for the church to have one, or its permit, a sort of "warrant of fitness for use as a place for public gathering" will be revoked. They were a bloody nuisance.

My church here has no walls so evacuation is not altogether difficult. Ironically though it has to have an illuminated "exit" sign over one of the absent walls, where a door would be if there were walls ... [Confused] go figure.

But we have not had to make a liturgical evacuation as yet. Out main risk here is cyclones, and unlike Tornado Alley [Tear] we get several days of warning - usually. The infamous Cyclone Tracy being the exception.

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lily pad
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A church just a block away from ours had a man die during a drill. There had been a warning but it was done the week before and he was not in church that Sunday so he thought there was a fire, moved too quickly and died of a heart attack. As a result, no church in that city will ever actually ring the alarm for a practice evacuation.

It's probably a good idea to set out the reasons why you would need to practice so that you actually can evaluate effectively afterward.

We too have the awful Exit signs in our worship space. On a regular Sunday they are jarring but when there is an evening concert and the place is packed, I figure they are worth having.

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Chorister

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Never in a service, but just before a concert is about to start, someone does the Air Stewardess routine. Not sure why concertgoers need a drill more than the congregation (but perhaps it is assumed the congo will go straight to heaven!)

When the advent wreath really did catch fire, quite spectacularly, everyone just looked at the pretty flames, except for one chorister who leapt up, grabbed the fire extinguisher and doused the flames (and most of the sopranos as well)! She was the butt of Fireman Sam jokes for weeks afterwards....

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Baptist Trainfan
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Strangely enough I have been in churches which give Fire Evacuation instructions ... but I've never heard them given at a public Concert Hall, Theatre or Cinema.

So: are churches in danger of taking this too seriously? The most important thing is surely not a Fire Practice but (a) the identification and minimising of potential fire hazards; (b) a risk assessment of the evacuation procedure (e.g. tricky steps to negotiate, how to deal with elderly people and wheelchair users); (c) well-trained ushers who know what to do in an emergency.

When I was at Primary School we had Fire Practice once a term and I was always frightened that it would happen when I was in upstairs classroom, as that meant using the scary outside fire escape (it was quite safe, but I didn't like being able to see down, beneath the steps).

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Heavenly Anarchist
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We have regular fire drill, once a year at least. But our church is in a a warehouse with lots of wide exits so easy to evacuate, with exception of the pre-schoolers upstairs. As there are usually about 20-30 of them a fire drill is always stressful but necessary.
I've always been very aware of the importance of fire drill in public buildings as I am a nurse and we get trained to evacuate wards - we get shown horrific videos on fires in large public buildings. But it hit home more last autumn when my son's school caught fire and the oldest part of the school (containing the public library and some offices) was gutted. He was in the hall next door and had to leave hurriedly with smoke visible behind him - was a very frightening experience for a bunch of 11 year olds.

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the giant cheeseburger
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Strangely enough I have been in churches which give Fire Evacuation instructions ... but I've never heard them given at a public Concert Hall, Theatre or Cinema.

I have many times. Usually it's just something along the lines of "in the event of an emergency or power failure please stay where you are and await instructions from our staff" combined with a warning not to enter the playing surface if it's at a stadium. At a cinema it will be played along with other promotions before the film starts, at a stadium it will get shown on the video screens before the match and during breaks when you get other announcements about not entering the playing surface, racism policies, upcoming events and so on.

The three sporting stadia I attend most often have battery-powered emergency PA systems which facilitate giving instructions to the crowds without mains electricity.
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
So: are churches in danger of taking this too seriously? The most important thing is surely not a Fire Practice but (a) the identification and minimising of potential fire hazards; (b) a risk assessment of the evacuation procedure (e.g. tricky steps to negotiate, how to deal with elderly people and wheelchair users); (c) well-trained ushers who know what to do in an emergency.

I don't think churches are in danger of taking this too seriously. Even if some of the specific procedures and requirements imposed from a denominational HQ are a little over the top, they need to be to ensure that they receive even the most minimal level of attention from those congregations which generally pay only lip service to instructions from HQ.

I think that in general people expect to be given directions at the time when they are in public places, and that "all-in" drills with an actual congregation aren't really necessary at churches because the fluctuating attendance means they would be of little use anyway. Instructions from a designated person-in-charge (known to all volunteers on the day) who is NOT the pastor should be enough, along with passive preparations like keeping a megaphone or two with batteries charged and signing kids in/out of children's ministry sessions.

However, most churches have enough staff and volunteers that you could gather them all together for a ministry training evening and have enough people to make a decent 'simulation' of a congregation (more so at churches with multiple non-overlapping services each weekend). This means you could both trial your procedures by springing an alarm during some seemingly unrelated meeting and then (once everybody has been safely evacuated and then brought back in) train all your volunteers in how to coordinate or assist that process.

One thing I definitely recommend for everybody is doing proper fire extinguisher training. Mainly because it's fun [Big Grin]

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3rdFooter
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I have to say I have never witnessed a fire practice or alarm in a church. I have known carelessness with a thurible cause a waste paper basket to smoke and there countless churches re-ordered after fires.

The OP did get me thinking about an alarm during the service. I was trained not to stop for any reason during the Eucharistic Prayer and let others deal with any emergency that might arise.

I guess the thing to do would be to complete the Eucharistic Prayer while others leave the building. Then (with proper procession) carry the elements to the assembly point and distribute communion there.

3F

(I will not make jokes about the holy toast)

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the giant cheeseburger
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Interesting theoretical approach to what you would do in such a specific circumstance.

But have you considered that dying in a fire while carrying on with a Eucharistic Prayer would probably count as an act of folly?

Or that Jesus might be able to keep listening if you continued to recite your prayer as you walked out of the building?

Or that your reaction in an actual emergency might have a little more to do with human instinct that your theoretical musings?

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PataLeBon
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I have to say that we learned in our little incident is that there were faults in our written procedures (which were followed).

They weren't anything big, but enough that the procedures will be corrected so that doesn't happen next time.

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That's between you and your god. Oh, wait a minute. You are your god. That's a problem. - Jack O'Neill (Stargate SG1)

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3rdFooter
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quote:
Originally posted by the giant cheeseburger:
Interesting theoretical approach to what you would do in such a specific circumstance.

But have you considered that dying in a fire while carrying on with a Eucharistic Prayer would probably count as an act of folly?

Or that Jesus might be able to keep listening if you continued to recite your prayer as you walked out of the building?

Or that your reaction in an actual emergency might have a little more to do with human instinct that your theoretical musings?

That is a rather snide response, to be honest.

I'd put the 'folly' in the same bracket as would those who think rock climbing or cycling on the roads 'folly'. Dying through living life the way that makes you most feel alive is considered by many a 'good' death.

Just accept that for some of us, the mass is the most important thing we do and we bring as much dignity to it as we are able, in whatever circumstances occur. I am fully aware that God's omnipotence is well able to deal with me being sloppy about the ablutions or any other part of the visible action. I'm still not going to treat the liturgy lightly. What we are actually asking is "are there limits on that?".

It's a hypothetical situation, so of course the musings are theoretical. Part of the point of training is so that you can do what you perceive to be the right thing in any circumstances. To date, the wardens and sidespeople have dealt with all the midnight mass randomness and the rest while I have stuck to my purpose. When the exact hypothetical circumstances occur, I call you back and let you know.

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3F - Shunter in the sidings of God's Kingdom

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Ceremoniar
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Our alarm system went off once. In addition to the flashing strobes lights, there is an alert tone, followed by a voice that announces that a "a fire situation has been detected in this building" and directs people to the nearest exits. It also reminds them not to use elevators and escalators, of which we have neither.

The alarm went off during Holy Hour, while the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in the monstrance on the altar and two priests were in the confessional. The pastor immediately exited his box (not sure if the penitent had to return to complete the sacrament), but the curate appears to have completed the confession in his box before emerging. Some of us know where the keys are and went to the Simplex panel, but could not turn off the system. The people in the church mostly stayed put, waiting to see if they were told to leave because there was a real emergency. The church plant is not huge, and even if the fire were in the basement, most in the church likely feel that they can easily slip out the back or side doors. The presence of Most Holy on the altar was likely a factor in the decision by folks in the pews to remain.

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Pine Marten
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quote:
Originally posted by 3rdFooter:
I have to say I have never witnessed a fire practice or alarm in a church. I have known carelessness with a thurible cause a waste paper basket to smoke and there countless churches re-ordered after fires.

I have known carelessness with a candle set a server's hair alight during a service once...

quote:

The OP did get me thinking about an alarm during the service.

When I became churchwarden I was instructed that the smoke alarm should be turned off during services until the incense cleared
[Eek!]

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Angloid
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quote:
Originally posted by Pine Marten:
quote:
Originally posted by 3rdFooter:
I have to say I have never witnessed a fire practice or alarm in a church. I have known carelessness with a thurible cause a waste paper basket to smoke and there countless churches re-ordered after fires.

I have known carelessness with a candle set a server's hair alight during a service once...

I have known a dyspraxic thurifer almost set fire to the Archbishop of York. [Big Grin]

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Chorister

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I suppose it is quite surprising really that, given the number of candles about in many churches, that most do not have fire drills or decent means of preventing / dousing fires. I guess much of it is to do with the fact that old churches, at least, are single storey with several very large doors. So people could get out quickly if need be.

The church in which I grew up had a serious fire which burnt the entire roof - it was caused by a blow torch which had been used to do some repairs up in the roof. Once the hardworking volunteer repair man had left, and choir practice was over, a small smouldering piece of debris turned into raging flames. Some sort of flashing, loud warning alarm would have been very useful - in the event a passing motorcyclist raised the alarm when he saw flames, so fortunately much of the historic interior of the church was saved.

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ChaliceGirl
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Every year, when there's a Christmas eve or Easter Vigil candlelight service and scores of people are holding candles- some with unsteady hands, at wooden pews, I think "this is an accident waiting to happen!"

I have never experienced a church fire drill but think it's a good idea.

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Heavenly Anarchist
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quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:

The church in which I grew up had a serious fire which burnt the entire roof - it was caused by a blow torch which had been used to do some repairs up in the roof. Once the hardworking volunteer repair man had left, and choir practice was over, a small smouldering piece of debris turned into raging flames. Some sort of flashing, loud warning alarm would have been very useful - in the event a passing motorcyclist raised the alarm when he saw flames, so fortunately much of the historic interior of the church was saved.

It was a blow torch doing repairs that did it for my son's school, it caught some old timber.

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the giant cheeseburger
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quote:
Originally posted by Pine Marten:
[QUOTE]When I became churchwarden I was instructed that the smoke alarm should be turned off during services until the incense cleared
[Eek!]

Use an infra-red fire detector (as originally designed for use in kitchens) instead of a traditional smoke detector and this wouldn't be an issue.

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Pine Marten
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Thanks for the info, TGC!
quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
I suppose it is quite surprising really that, given the number of candles about in many churches, that most do not have fire drills or decent means of preventing / dousing fires. I guess much of it is to do with the fact that old churches, at least, are single storey with several very large doors. So people could get out quickly if need be.

Ours is Victorian gothic, so quite easy to escape from, and we do have several fire extinguishers discreetly dotted around the place.

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Angloid:
quote:
Originally posted by Pine Marten:
quote:
Originally posted by 3rdFooter:
I have to say I have never witnessed a fire practice or alarm in a church. I have known carelessness with a thurible cause a waste paper basket to smoke and there countless churches re-ordered after fires.

I have known carelessness with a candle set a server's hair alight during a service once...

I have known a dyspraxic thurifer almost set fire to the Archbishop of York. [Big Grin]
Train him so he can succeed next time.

[ 28. May 2013, 13:39: Message edited by: leo ]

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Ceremoniar
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# 13596

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quote:
Originally posted by the giant cheeseburger:
quote:
Originally posted by Pine Marten:
[QUOTE]When I became churchwarden I was instructed that the smoke alarm should be turned off during services until the incense cleared
[Eek!]

Use an infra-red fire detector (as originally designed for use in kitchens) instead of a traditional smoke detector and this wouldn't be an issue.
Indeed. The interior of our church building, including the sacristy, is wired to detect heat only, and not smoke--and the heat sensor requires a high enough temperature, not something that even a churchful of worshippers holding candles will activate. The parish hall, offices and classrooms are all wired for smoke and heat. Most years we have set up the altar of repose on Maundy Thursday in the parish hall, so we do have to cover the smoke detectors for that.
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Jonm
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Angloid:
quote:
Originally posted by Pine Marten:
quote:
Originally posted by 3rdFooter:
I have to say I have never witnessed a fire practice or alarm in a church. I have known carelessness with a thurible cause a waste paper basket to smoke and there countless churches re-ordered after fires.

I have known carelessness with a candle set a server's hair alight during a service once...

I have known a dyspraxic thurifer almost set fire to the Archbishop of York. [Big Grin]
Train him so he can succeed next time.
yeah, teach the nasty darky his place
Posts: 264 | From: London | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jonm
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# 1246

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quote:
Originally posted by Jonm:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Angloid:
quote:
Originally posted by Pine Marten:
quote:
Originally posted by 3rdFooter:
I have to say I have never witnessed a fire practice or alarm in a church. I have known carelessness with a thurible cause a waste paper basket to smoke and there countless churches re-ordered after fires.

I have known carelessness with a candle set a server's hair alight during a service once...

I have known a dyspraxic thurifer almost set fire to the Archbishop of York. [Big Grin]
Train him so he can succeed next time.
yeah, teach the nasty darky his place
I overreacted to Leo's remark about Archbisop John and apologise unreservedly.

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"My God, My God, why hast thou accepted me?"---Caedmon's Call

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