PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — Fire officials are trying to figure out how much damage a lightning strike dealt to a Pine Mountain church. Christ the King Catholic Church has stood in the community for about 40 years. It is right across the street from the popular tourist destination Callaway Gardens.
The current building is about a decade old. However, Tuesday around 8:45 p.m., moments after the church held mass, a bolt of lightning struck the steeple. Flames sparked and soon the fire spread down the middle of the sanctuary.
“Seeing is believing,” Michael Gibbon, a building services volunteer and church member, said. “I had mixed emotions. I was shocked so much damage had been done, but at the same time, it could have been a whole lot worse.”
Gibbon told News 3 a firefighter was on the way to another call when he saw the fire erupt. He was able to assist in extinguishing the flames. The aftermath left caution tape clinging to the pews, rubble littering the pulpit, and a burning stench lingering in the air.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise with a steeple that high,” church member Bruce Brooks told News 3. “It’s just mother nature. We’re just glad we’re going to be able to rebuild it, because it’s something beautiful that kind of goes with this area and Callaway Gardens. People come up here to enjoy the outdoors and the beauty of God’s nature, and we’re going to be able to restore that.”
Many other church members say they are thankful the damage was limited and no one was hurt. Throughout the restoration process, the church will hold services across the street in the Parrish Hall of the new Pastoral Center. The church priest sent a statement to members urging them to stay away from the church because of unsafe conditions.
“We’re a close family, and honestly, tragedies make you stronger,” Brooks said. “And we always know who’s in control.”