Wilson County church will rebuild
Posted June 14, 2010 5:50 a.m. EDT
Updated June 15, 2010 7:05 a.m. EDT
Sims, N.C. — A historic Wilson County church struck by lightning Sunday evening will be rebuilt and will be stronger than ever, its congregation's pastor said Monday.
Firefighters said lightning from a summer storm hit the 110-year-old Nobles Chapel Baptist Church on Old Raleigh Road in Sims just after 6 p.m. and quickly engulfed it in flames.
Churchgoers arriving for Sunday evening service were able to salvage some items from the flames before they – and firefighters – had to pull out as the fire became too dangerous.
Firefighters saved the fellowship hall, and no one was injured, but the main sanctuary burned and the steeple collapsed in the blaze.
"There's a lot of grief among our members," Rev. Rodney Walls, said.
"It's tragic to see it," Esta Bailey, 88, and one of the church's oldest members, said. "When we left yesterday, we didn't realize that would be the last time we'd see it standing."
Church members said they have already had offers of help from neighboring congregations.
"This happened for a reason. We don't why, but the church will come back stronger," church member Rudolph Hinnant said.
For now, many say they are holding on to the last sermon they heard in the church's sanctuary. Hours before the fire, a visiting pastor preached about weathering the storm.
"We didn't know, but something tragic was going to happen," Bailey said. "(And that sermon's helping us) through it."