The sanctuary of a N.C. Baptist church in Hickory burned to the ground hours before services were scheduled on Sunday, according to published reports.
The sanctuary at Penelope Baptist Church was a total loss, the Hickory Daily Record reported.
Investigators couldn’t determine the exact cause of the fire, but foul play is not suspected, according to the paper.
The congregation worshipped in the gymnasium of its fellowship center on Sunday. The church office has been temporarily relocated to the center, according to a statement on the church web site.
“During the coming days and weeks we ask that you keep our church family in your prayers,” the statement said. “Also be patient with us as we try to put things back to some semblance of order.”
Six fire departments responded to the scene to put out the blaze, the Record reported.
Other church buildings, including administrative offices and the educational building, had water, smoke and minor fire damage.
Construction on the sanctuary that burned was started in 1937 and completed in 1939, according to the church web site. The church was founded in 1888.
“We are a ‘come back’ church,” pastor David Grinnell told the Hickory newspaper. “This church has been in existence for 120 years and has made it through some tough times. And we’ll do it again this time.”