FAYETTEVILLE, TN (WAFF) - Lincoln United Methodist, on Old Lincoln Rd. in Tennessee, went up in flames around 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening.
Captain Crethton Caldwell with the Flintville Fire Department said heavy smoke was coming from the building when they arrived. He said when crews tried to get inside the ceiling started to collapse, causing firefighters to exit the building.
Michael Newton called 911. He lives right behind the church and was the first one to see the flames. He says he first saw flames billowing from the steeple and quickly noticed the wind taking them through the back of the building.
Carolyn Thompson and Eloise Hudgins, sisters who grew up in the church, call Newton a hero for his quick actions.
"I ain't no hero. I'm just doing what anybody else would've done," Newton noted. Although, he says it won't be the same coming home and seeing the church no longer there.
For Thompson and Hudgins, the church has been a cornerstone their entire lives. "[Our] daddy and our uncle were the ones that built this building," Thompson said.
One of the dying embers in the church was a cross. "I just think it's so good that the lord left that cross. The cross is still there. It looks like it could just be dusted off," an emotional Thompson added while fighting back tears. That cross was so special to them because it was gifted on their behalf to the church after their grandparents passing.
"This little community...this little square has compromised our life," Hudgins noted. She says the entire community will notice a huge loss with the church's closing. "They went to school here and they've lived here. This and the Presbyterian church down there both anchored this community. So the school is gone and the church is gone - so there's no more congregation here. But the sense of the community is still strong."
The United Methodist Conference owns and operates the church, and its ultimately up to them to decide the church's future.
Captain Caldwell says the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but he does not suspect foul play.
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