Roane County (WVLT) - A weekend fire reduced a Roane County church to rubble just hours before their Sunday morning services.
Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy talked to members of the congregation who say that although the building is gone, their church still stands strong.
Sunday service at New Midway Baptist Church took place without a sanctuary.
"Oh, it was awful," said Bobbie Shubert, who watched as her church burned to ashes early Sunday morning.
What was left was still smoldering Sunday night.
"It's more scary now that it's daylight, because you're actually getting to see things," Shubert said.
Firefighters say the fire spread from the back baptistery area, just before 1:00 a.m. Sunday.
"How it started, we're still not for sure about," said assistant fire chief Michael Marney.
The flames blazed 50 feet high, devouring the roof, the sanctuary, and nearly everything else.
The new Roane County church was finished just three years ago.
The flames burned so hot on Sunday, they melted the siding on the old church, which stands about 30 feet away.
For several firefighters, the waters sprayed on their faith foundation as well.
"It only makes me want to work harder, knowing that this is my home and want to protect everything I possibly can protect," Marney said.
But the fire didn't reduce church members' faith to rubble.
The 100-plus congregation crammed themselves, their tears, and their prayers into the Fellowship Hall for services.
"Fire is a refining element," said pastor Doug Henson. "It's not going to do anything but make our faith stronger."
For Shubert, that comes from her Bible, now clutched tightly to her chest.
"God's strength. Knowledge that He's going to be with me at all times," she said, "because it's just a building. It's not the church. God's people are the church."
Hand-in-hand, the congregation will rebuild.
Church members plan to set up chairs in the old sanctuary for next week's services.
Their sister churches have already volunteered any help they need.
Church members say they're just thankful no one was hurt.
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