The work to get a Maine church building back open after a meth lab was recently found inside has begun.
"It was heartbreaking to have to do this," Pastor Lynn Briggs of Buxton United Methodist Church said of locking the building until it's clean. "The range of emotions has been horrible."
Last week, Buxton Police arrested Matthew Anderson, 33, and accused him of creating a meth lab inside the church, after someone reported a chemical smell and suspicious activity.
The latest news from around the state
Briggs said Anderson is not a member of the church but multiple members of his family are.
"The Andersons are a beloved family in our church," Briggs said. "They are not in any way, in my mind, or the congregation's mind to blame."
Briggs said she and the other members of the church were shocked to learn of the lab's existence and she, nor others, had any idea it was there.
She says Anderson was discovered cooking meth in a bathroom across the hall from a children's nursery and a substance was found in a bag in a closet in that nursery.
With the building sealed off, the church has been forced to think creatively as it continues regular activities in the Christmas season.
Donated toys collected for children in Buxton will have to be replaced due to possible contamination.
Costumes for children's Christmas plays had to be borrowed from elsewhere since the ones the church uses may also be contaminated.
As for Bible studies and services, the church is sharing space with two other Buxton churches that have opened their doors.
One of them is the North Congregational Church, which raised $700 for the Methodist church's repairs and reopening.
"It is the worst time of year for something like this to happen," Rev. Dr. Cathy Genthner said. "Whatever they need, we're here to help them out."
That message is one the Methodist congregation wants to reinforce. The church said they are "praying for those battling addiction and their families" and do not blame the individual.
The say the togetherness and positive messages coming out of what is otherwise a difficult time is reinforcing the Christmas spirit.
"That message hasn't changed for us," Briggs said. "That's always been our message. It's much louder now."
Church leaders hope they can get test results back in three to five days so a clean-up plan can be made. They are hoping they can reopen the building before a planned blood drive on Dec. 23.
When it does re-open its doors, there are plans for a big community "welcome back" event.