MEIGS COUNTY - A lightning strike destroyed a church southwest of Sweetwater in Meigs County Monday night, reports WRCB.

A little after 11 p.m. a loud crack of thunder awoke a neighbor next to Grace Baptist Church. Jackie Moore said it sounded like an earthquake. He looked out the window and saw fire billowing from the church's roof and called 911.

Within minutes firefighters arrived, but it was too late to save the building.

"Just a matter of minutes it was on fire from one end to the other," Moore told WRCB.

Meigs County EMS Director Tony Finnell said when firefighters got on scene the building was starting to collapse. The church's pastor, Joe Andrew, got to the church shortly after fire crews. What he saw brought him to tears.

"The sanctuary was fully engulfed," said Andrew. "The whole sky was lit up."

One by one his congregation joined him in the church's parking lot.

"Hardest thing was to see the people huddled up," Andrew told WRCB. "The hurt that's on their faces and there's nothing you can do but pray."

The church had been a staple in the community since 1980. What started as a small basement congregation grew into a place of worship for 70 members.

The pastor said they will rebuild the church.

"Too many lives have been changed to let it lay in ruin," Andrew said.

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