ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. --
Firefighters think lightning may have sparked a fire that destroyed a Landis church.
Sarah Bowlen said she was awake around 5 a.m. Tuesday, giving a bottle to her baby. She said she looked out and saw lightning strike the front of the Corriher Heights Baptist Church.
It made the most awful sound. It was horrible loud, she said. It just sounded like an explosion."
Neighbors told Eyewitness News the force from the strike shook their homes.
A fire captain said it appears lightning hit the steeple or attic of the church, sparking a fire that smoldered inside for hours.
A person driving by around 8 a.m. saw smoke and called for help.
The fire mixed with the strong winds reduced the building to rubble, but Pastor Chris Pethel said the fire didn't touch his congregation's faith.
"This building means a lot to us, but its just a building, Pethel said. "A church is the people, and these people, they'll pull together."
Several church members gathered at the scene as firefighters pulled two wooden crosses that had been untouched by fire from the ashes of the sanctuary.
"God's greater than fire," Pethel said.
The pastor said the church had been ramping up plans to rebuild in recent months. The first lady of the church said she thinks the fire is a sign that God has spoken.
The church will hold a prayer meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the fellowship hall. It is a separate building behind the burned sanctuary that was not damaged.
The powerful thunderstorm that hit the area early Tuesday morning caused widespread damage.
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