The gray clapboard church with the red door had stood near the New Jersey coastline for more than 125 years, surviving floods and fires, hurricanes and northeasters. So when its senior warden left the church on the Sunday before Hurricane Sandy hit, he tucked the church records into a drawer for safekeeping and kept everything else in place.
That moment keeps replaying in his mind, said the warden, Dennis Bellars, because this time, luck ran out for St. Elisabeth’s Chapel-by-the-Sea, a tiny Episcopal chapel in storm-ravaged Ortley Beach, N.J. The church is marked now by nothing but a field of sand and broken pavement. The pews, the brass candlesticks; the 1885 stained glass windows, the needlepoint kneelers sewn by a parishioner; the wooden baptismal font ”” the sea or the sand took all of them.
Mr. Bellars, 70, said he had evacuated to the mainland that afternoon with the family Bible, a change of clothes, his dog and some dog food. Devastated, he found the destruction hard to talk about….