2 2 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Flames ripped through a South Nashville church early Thursday morning, leaving congregants little to do but search for communion plates and other cherished keepsakes among the sooty rubble.

The fire was reported at Trinity Church of the Nazarene around 1:43 a.m.

The roof collapsed over the sanctuary, leaving behind a shell of warped walls and broken bricks. Above the pulpit in the front of the sanctuary, a stained glass window showed Jesus towering over the ruins.

"It looks pretty rough," Senior Pastor Mike Proctor said Thursday. "There's no doubt it's a total loss."

Officials believe lightning was to blame.

This isn't the first time church members have grappled with the aftermath of a fire. Lightning tore the Vultee Boulevard church's steeple off in July 2012.

Firefighters were able to keep that fire contained, but flames had already torn through the roof by the time they arrived Thursday morning.

This Sunday, the congregation of about 50 will gather at a neighboring Baptist church to celebrate Pentecost, "the outpouring of the Holy Spirit."

"The Holy Spirit don't live in the building," Proctor said. "He lives in people, and they're here."

Melvin Blair, a Trinity Church member since 1955, married his wife there in 1962. He ran to the scene while firefighters were still dousing the flames with water and stayed behind to begin work on the recovery.

"This church is my life," he said. "There's a lot of memories here."

Despite his heartbreak, Blair said his faith was as sturdy as ever.

"We've come through this before," Proctor said. "We care about the building, but what really matters is the people."

2 2 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wbir.com/1hgYnd7