After being struck by lightning on Friday, a historic church in Massachusetts caught fire, and dramatic video documented the destruction, which included the collapse of the church’s prominent steeple. Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the First Congregational Church in Spencer, Massachusetts, about 50 miles west of Boston, was consumed by powerful orange flames and heavy black smoke.
Screams can be heard on the footage when the spire of the Protestant church, built in 1863, collapses, sending more flames and smoke into the air. According to the Boston Globe, the original church on the site dates back to 1772, but a fire in the 19th century forced its demolition.
The steeple of the church caught fire first, followed by the rest of the building. Authorities said that no one was hurt and that no one was inside the church at the time of the explosion. Spencer Fire Chief Paul Normandin told WCVB that once firemen entered the church itself, “there was a fire in the attic and in the steeple itself.”
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According to Normandin, it took firefighters about 45 minutes to bring down the steeple after they began fighting the blaze. Since the church spire served as a cellphone tower, the fire also disrupted mobile phone service in the vicinity, as reported by Normandin.
The Rev. Bruce MacLeod, the church’s interim pastor, speculated that the building’s rapid destruction was due to the use of flammable materials. He also said it’s too soon to tell if the church, which has a membership of about thirty, can be rebuilt.
Mary Baker-Wood, head of the Spencer Historical Commission, told the Globe that the Congregational Church was one of the first significant buildings established in the Town and had both a religious and civic purpose, as is true in many New England villages.
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Generations of town residents have been guided by the white spire atop the hill as they travel down Main Street. “Many of Spencer’s most prominent families have belonged to the church, and most long-time residents have attended countless baptisms, weddings, funerals, and public events there,” Baker-Wood said.
The church’s services were set to begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday. The members of the congregation were given the option of attending a similar service at the First Congregational Church of Leicester.
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