Crosses, Faith Remain after Devastating Church Fire

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A small congregation in China Grove, N.C., is trying to move forward after a devastating fire consumed their church building early Tuesday morning.

Though their building is gone, church members say their faith remains strong.

Investigators with the Rowan County Fire Marshal's Office believe lightening struck the Corriher Heights Baptist Church building's steeple, setting off the inferno.

Strong winds fueled the blaze for hours, turning the sanctuary to rubble. Units from several different fire departments were called out to help get the fire under control.

One witness claimed she heard a terrible sound, which she thought was lightening hitting the building just before sunrise Tuesday.

"It made the awfulest sound. It was horrible. It sounded like an explosion," recalled Sarah Bowlen, a neighbor.

After the fire, members comforted each other outside their gutted church. They received what some of them believe is a sign of hope for the future. Out of the ashes, fire fighters recovered two wooden crosses -- untouched by the blaze.

For Pastor Chris Pethel and his congregation, it's a tragic loss. But their faith remains unshaken.

"This building means a lot to us but its just a building. A church is the people and these people, they'll pull together," Pethel said.

The congregation plans to rebuild their church building. Until then, local churches have offered their sanctuaries for the small group to hold services.

"I love this church. It's meant a lot to me and I hate to see its gone. But now, we're just going to be strong," said church member Jason Sawyer.

"God's greater than fire," Pethel said. "We'll rebuild."

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Efrem Graham

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.