Madisonville (WVLT) - A Historic church sanctuary in Monroe County is now ashes this evening after being destroyed in an early morning fire.
Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb has been following this story since the call went out around six o'clock this morning.
Glenn Rapking and Ralph DePew have been members of the First United Methodist Church for 50 years.
One calls the fire sad, the other sickening. But both say they will rebuild.
First United Methodist Church pastor Braxton Cotton was one of the first in the church to get to the scene and see the devastation.
"Seeing the flames reaching up to the sky even cresting over the church next door to us was incredible. You just pray for strength." He says.
It wasn't long after fire crews began extinguishing the fire at six am before other congregation members began arriving and witnessing for themselves what had happened.
Church member Glenn Raking says, "Of coarse it's sad. A lot of our members are around here and a lot of them are crying."
Member Ralph DePew adds, "It was just sickening, just absolutely sickening to see the destruction of the building."
Both Rapking and DePew have been members for fifty or more years of the church.
DePew sees it as a great loss of history for the town:"It was an absolute beautiful sanctuary with a big stained glass window on this end."
For Rapking, it's also a bit of a personal loss as his former company provided much of the furnishings.
"I billed out the material for every piece of furniture in that church so it has a history." He says.
But the loss was more than just the church's. There was smoke damage to the adjoining building where groups like the Boy Scouts met.
Rapking says, "County people meet there. It's really been a community center."
While the building is now mostly ashes, church members say it won't stay that way.
"I think we are going to be rebuilding as quickly as we can get somebody on the job." DePew says.
"We all will survive, move on, build again." Rapking says.
Pastor Braxton Cotton says many churches have offered to help with space for services.
At this point, he says they haven't decided where they plan to go for future services.
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