Only a cross remains after a fire destroyed a church in rural Buffalo County.

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NEAR SHELTON, Neb. (KSNB) - A small Lutheran congregation will have to find a new place to worship after a fire destroyed their church Wednesday.

Firefighters surround a cross, all that's left of Zion Lutheran Church northwest of Shelton after a Wednesday fire. (SOURCE: KSNB)

A passer-by reported a fire Wednesday morning about 7:15 at Zion Lutheran Church located at 53125 Grand Island Road, about ten miles northwest of Shelton.

Church member Rick Pope told Local4, "Most of the neighborhood knew about it about seven o'clock this morning, I looked out the window and saw a glow. I live about five miles away and could see a glow. My son called me about that same time and we came up and watched it burn down."

Shelton Fire Chief Jason Wiehn said it took crews about 35 minutes to contain the fire. He said the building is destroyed. Firefighters from Shelton, Wood River, Gibbon and Ravenna were on the scene.

Chief Wiehn said firefighters biggest problem was water supply. Trucks had to return to Shelton and Ravenna to get more water to fight the fire.

Fire officials don't believe anyone was around the area or inside the church at the time of the fire and there were no reported injuries

Our reporter on scene spoke to a parishioner who has been going to Zion Lutheran his entire life. He said it hasn’t really kicked in yet that this occurred.

Pope said, "It's too early to really put everything into words but we're really saddened and just kind of a sick feeling. This building's been here since 1912, a lot of families have grown up here and it's just a part of our lives."

Zion Lutheran Parish belongs to the Nebraska District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. District President Richard Snow told Local4 that it is a dual parish with Bethlehem Lutheran in Ravenna. Reverend Snow said he expected many of Zion's parishioners to go there. An upcoming children's Christmas program will be held at the Ravenna church.

Reverend Snow said they would wait to see what insurance settlement the church gets and how the congregation wants to proceed.

He said the congregation was established in the late 19th century and that the building dated back to 1912.

Reverend Snow sympathized with the Zion Lutheran congregation and said, "Church buildings have a precious place in people's hearts because so many important events happen there. It's a building where God has done some wonderful things."

The state fire marshal was investigating the cause of the fire. Local4 will update this story as new information becomes available.


From the north side of Zion Lutheran. Nothing remains other than remnants of the building. (SOURCE: KSNB)