Flames Caused By Lightning Destroyed First Congregational Church of Spencer

Pixabay/Patrice Audet

Lightning struck the First Congregational Church of Spencer, United Church of Christ, resulting in a fire that devastated the building that served as a place of worship. Within half an hour, the church was reportedly no longer there.

Lighting Strike at Church

On Friday, Jun 2, a blaze completely gutted a church standing in Spencer, Massachusetts, for the past 160 years. Lightning was cited as the cause of the incident by officials from the fire department. As the church was unoccupied at the time that it caught fire, the authorities said that there were no casualties as a result of the blaze. Based on a report from Hindustan Times, bringing the fire under control required the efforts of approximately one hundred firefighters. As mentioned, the fire started in the church tower and quickly progressed to the lower levels of the building. The cathedral's steeple eventually suffered destruction due to the fire and collapsed. Rev. Bruce MacLeod, who serves as the church's Interim Pastor, explained that the building goes back to the 1800s and was constructed from wood and other materials.

Moreover, Boston 25 News reported that according to Robert Parsons, the Chief of the Spencer Fire Department, firefighters were attending to a different incident about a lightning strike in a different part of town when they got a report about the fire alarm going off at the parish building. He asserted that the volunteer firefighters stopped into the church when they were off-duty and claimed that when they arrived, all they noticed was a little cloud of smoke coming out of the steeple. However, the structure had completely disappeared within 30 minutes since it went up in flame quickly. 

Accordingly, the fire was fought for several hours by the crews. The only part of the building still standing was the front facade. Parsons also noted that the facade posed a risk and needed to be taken down immediately. From 11 p.m. on Friday, Jun 2, until around 4 a.m. on Saturday, Jun 3, personnel tried to take it down while using excavators. In addition, the assisted living facility nearby had to be evacuated following a blaze that broke out on the roof, yet on Saturday morning; residents were permitted to go back inside.

Also Read: Historic St. Joseph Parish Church Roof Destroyed By Windstorm

Brief History of the United Church of Christ

Nathaniel Cunningham, a prosperous Cambridge merchant, gave the land which currently serves as the location of the First Congregational Church of Spencer, United Church of Christ, in 1743 so that it may be used to build the house of worship. According to Spencer Church.org, the church location was reportedly part of Leicester during that time. Spencer was founded on Apr 12, 1753, when Lt. Governor Spencer Phipps signed a measure. The barn had unplanted planks for walls, no clapboards, and no stucco or paneling inside. There was only flooring but no seat in the church, commonly called the Second Church of Leicester. As stated over several years, many advancements were made.

In 1772, a new, more spacious church structure was constructed. According to historical accounts, this structure was considered "substantial" and even "elegant" for its day. In the year 1802, a steeple and a bell were installed. In 1820, Reverend Stephen Crosby, serving as the third minister, was responsible for establishing the church school. It was considered one of the first of its kind in the country. In the year 1838, the church had renovations both on the inside and the outside. The entire structure was rotated by one quarter, so the front of it now faces the south, and there are now chairs with hinges. However, on Jan 1, 1862, the church building was annihilated by a fire. The current church was constructed and given its dedication in the year 1863.

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