Pastor Sonny Smith is calling it “a sign from God” after his church’s sanctuary burned to the ground with only one thing remaining upright: the cross.
“To me, that was a sign from God, saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m still here and I’m going to lead you forward,’” the preacher told KDFW-TV, noting the congregation would meet outside, near the scene of the fire.
“Shed some tears together over what was — but also create some excitement for what God plans for us in the future,” Smith continued, referring to the Sunday outdoor gathering, which came two days after the building went up in flames. “I can tell you what’s inside of our church family: it’s faith.”
During an interview with CBS News, Smith called the cross’ survival “an absolute miracle.”
“That cross is where we would get little pieces of paper with a string and everyone put all their family members and different ones they wanted to pray for and we hung them up on that cross,” he explained. “It’s an absolute miracle that that cross made it through the fire when nothing else did.”
A spokesperson for the Wise County Emergency Services Department No. 2 told Fox News the fire at Balsora Baptist Church was “a devastating loss to our community” but called the still-standing cross a “sight to behold.”
“The fire took the structure, but not the cross,” added the representative. “A symbol that the building was just that, a building. The church is the congregation, and where two or more gather, there He shall be also.”
According to county officials, the sanctuary was more than 120 years old.
As firefighters were working diligently to put out the flames, the roof of the decades-old building began to collapse with first responders still inside the sanctuary. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but the incident is under investigation.
The pastor, for his part, said the fire broke out after a construction crew left the property for lunch on Friday. The church has been doing renovations on the fellowship hall to expand the kitchen.
“They came back, the fire was going, and they tried their best to get it out, but they just couldn’t get it out,” he said, adding he’s trusting God to “carry us through.”