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"It breaks my heart" | Sneedville community devastated after church fire

Sandy Springs Missionary Baptist Church caught fire Thursday morning, and officials with it said everything inside was ruined.

SNEEDVILLE, Tenn. — A congregation in Sneedville is trying to figure out what is next after a church fire left the building standing, but ruined almost everything inside. The Sandy Springs Missionary Baptist Church caught fire Thursday morning.

"Through the mercy of God, nobody was hurt," said Rev. Earl King. "But it breaks my heart."

The church had been around since 1898, and King said that people in the community are donating to help the congregation rebuild. He has been at the church for only two months. Despite spending such a short time there, he said he has cherished every moment.

"A lot of these country churches, ain't many of them left," he said. "It still has an effect on me to think about it."

He said he got the call at around 5 a.m. and arrived to find several firetrucks surrounding the church. Most of the damage was contained inside the building. It still charred pews and left hymn books in ash, though.

Fire Chief Freddie Mullins said lightning could have caused the fire, but they are still investigating. Currently, he said the fire department is calling it an electrical fire.

Community members said the church is a cherished part of Sneedville, even for non-members.

"I hate it," said one member. "I am not a member here, but I hate it for the people who go here."

Although the congregation may have to find ways to rebuild, Rev. King said that he still has hope. He said the only way to go is up.

"I believe God is going to give us another place to worship him," he said.