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Less than 24 hours before this week's big aftershocks Rev Neil Struthers led a walk through shattered Lyttelton.

He and about 30 others stopped and prayed at devastated buildings around the township as part of its healing.

"It was a sort of closure. We had some blessings and we grieved where we lost things," Mr Struthers said yesterday.

They had no idea, of course, that even more damage was about to be inflicted on the town.

His Holy Trinity Anglican Church, which is 141 years old, had been condemned after February's quake but it completely collapsed on Monday "with this tremendous noise".

His vicarage next door will almost certainly have to be demolished because the land it is on has been left unstable by the most recent quakes.

Although he admits "I don't know where we go from here," Mr Struthers is confident the church will be rebuilt soon.

"I just hope in my heart of hearts that the ruins we look at today ... something will rise from it."

The strong community resilience was giving away to caution as the violent shakes continued. "It's not the little shakes - we can cope with those - but it's the violent ones. That's what people are afraid of."