An excavator clawed the hallway between the Kamloops United Church and its adjoining Christian Education Centre, parting the two sides of the building and making the renovation irreversible Thursday.
Sharon Huuha, Kamloops United Church administrative secretary, said she was fascinated to watch as the machine operator tore an opening from roof to floor where her office had been.
"We call it a breezeway," she said of the gap created between the two sides of the building.
The severing of the building is the first step in renovating the sanctuary side of the church, which will also house a hall, new kitchen and preschool-daycare space.
When that's completed — the contractor estimates November or December — the church and preschool move into the new space.
"Then we'll move into there, and I'll back to my old office – newer but slightly smaller. Then the other end comes off completely," she said.
That's the old Christian Education Centre, which will be flattened to make room for offices and a six-storey, 61-unit apartment.
Huuha said the area where the destruction is being done now has to be dug down, because basement is being created there.
So far, the work has gone well, she said.
"It went fairly smooth. It's incredible to watch that man with that machine come in the centre of the building, ripping pieces out of the building and roof and being able to manipulate that big machine," she said.
Some nice-looking wood was destroyed in the process, but it would have been difficult to salvage as it had screws in it every two feet, she said.
Both sides of the building are without heat, and they won't get any until the first stage of renovations is complete in early winter.
"Our ancient boiler is turned off. It can't be started up again," said Huuha.
Bill White, a church parishioner for 15 years, lives a few blocks away and has been walking past almost daily. He watched the excavator take the building apart.
"It felt terrible and it also felt exciting. Terrible to see the way it was being torn down, but exciting to see what's going to happen in the future," he said.
The church congregation has already held two services in the Christian Education Centre's hall, which will be the temporary sanctuary until the first phase of renovations is done.
Chairs have to be brought out and put away after every service, because the hall is used for other programs, too, such as Sunday's PIT Stop to feed the homeless.
White is already anticipating being a spectator on the second phase.
"It's the next stage that I think is going to be interesting, when they put the six-floor apartment building."