A 160-year-old church in Spencer, Massachusetts, was destroyed by fire Friday.
The steeple of First Congregational United Church collapsed into the flames, according to WHDH-TV.
After the flames had charred the wood black, one beam fell across a chimney that remained standing, forming a cross.
“That gives me hope that we’ll be back,” one woman told WHDH as she looked upon the scene.
“For a lot of folks its a death in the family, for folks who have gone through life milestones here from baptisms to weddings to funerals, it’s devastating,” Rev. Bruce MacLeod, the church’s pastor, said.
“I’m just sad for the parishioners and the generations and generations of people who have put their heart and soul into this church,” Danielle Debo said.
The first firefighters to respond to an alarm system did not see smoke until they entered the church, when they saw smoke in the steeple.
“As they were advancing into the church itself, there was a fire in the attic and in the steeple itself,” Paul Normandin, the chief of the Southbridge Fire Department, said.
Normandin said the steeple collapsed about 45 minutes after firefighters arrived.
The cause is presumed to be a lightning strike, according to WHDH.
“We had an eyewitness report of a lightning strike in the area, so we’re kind of assuming at this point that it’s probably what happened. At this point we’re still going to have the investigation going on,” Normandin said.
“The town of Spencer has lost one of its most prominent landmarks,” Selectman Ralph E. Hicks said, according to the Boston Globe.
“This is a heartbreaking loss for our community,” Mary Baker-Wood, chair of the Spencer Historical Commission, said. “As is true in many New England communities, the Congregational Church was one of the first important buildings erected in the Town and served in both a religious and civic capacity.”
According to WHDH, the church had been wrecked by fire in 1862 and was rebuilt after that.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.