A seven-alarm hellish fire has destroyed a historic 150-year-old church in Massachusetts – but a massive painting of Jesus Christ miraculously survived the blaze.
First Baptist Church in Wakefield, Massachusetts has been a landmark in the Boston area for over 100 years but its interior and roof was reduced to ash after the church was reportedly struck by a lightening bolt and a furious fire broke out on Tuesday evening.
But by some stroke of luck, the human-sized painting of Jesus that once hung at the front entrance of the church was recovered practically unscathed.
According to witnesses, a lightning bolt struck the steeple of the church, which was built in 1872, around 7pm as powerful thunderstorms rolled through the greater Boston area.
The strike ignited the fire that quickly spread throughout the church structure.
Officials have not announced a cause of the fire yet.
The vicious inferno devastated the church, but parishioners found comfort in the fact that the Jesus Christ painting somehow survived the blaze.
‘It’s a beautiful sign and a reminder that Jesus is with us,’ parishioner Maria Kakolowski said.
‘I’m personally just taking as a sign and a reminder that the Jesus Christ we serve is still alive and even though our church building is gone, our church is here and the God that we serve is still here,’ she added.
The portrait will be gifted for a former pastor at the church.
A team of more than 100 firefighters toiled for hours to quell the sudden inferno, some sustaining minor injuries.
‘I was down about a mile away and I just saw this fireball in the sky. It just went up like a tinderbox. It’s a building built in 1870 and and it’s balloon-style so once the fire starts you know the whole building just went up quickly,’ the church’s pastor Reverend Doctor Norm Bendroth said.
When the fire was finally extinguished much of its exterior was still standing but its steeple and roof was completely burned down to its skeletal wooden frame.
A meeting was taking place in the church at the time of the fire but everyone was evacuated by the time the flames gained momentum.
No one was harmed in the blaze and the church will be torn down. Talks are in place to see if they will rebuild the structure.
The fire cost about $1million in damages, according to the Boston Globe.
‘When the windows were all aglow — every stained glass window was aglow — it looked like you were looking into hell. It was just an awful, awful sight,’ former parishioner Susan Auld said.
The church released a statement following the fire:
‘While we lost our historic building from a lightning strike this week, we praise Jesus that our church community was kept safe. A very big thank you to the many firefighters who did their jobs with excellence, and to the outpouring of support from the community,’ the statement said.
‘We know that we serve a God who specializes in restoring brokenness and who can bring beauty even from ashes. So we move into the future with trust, hope, and gratitude,’ the statement continued.
Parishioners gathered at the church site on Wednesday to see crews clear the wreckage. The remains of the spire were dismantled as was the Tall Spire Nursery School which was housed inside.
People on the scene took comfort in seeing that the painting of Jesus, standing in a white robe with his hands extended, was successfully recovered.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the First Baptist Church in the aftermath of the fire.