BENNETTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church burned to the ground Easter Sunday, leaving church members in search of answers.
Investigators said at this point, they are not sure if the fire is suspicious or an accident, but church members say the fire is a tragedy.
Jacqueline Bethea and her granddaughter looked on at the burned and charred remains of the church they worshipped in on Easter Sunday.
"The spirit was high … you know it was Easter Sunday. Everybody was in the spirit and then all of a sudden late last night we had a tragedy," said Bethea.
The church had been standing for more than a century, along Mount Zion Church Road.
"It's been here since the 1900s, and it's just devastating to everybody," said Bethea.
Bethea said for the past two years the church had been in the process of expanding.
On Monday, the Bennettsville Fire Department doused a few spots of the building that were still smoldering after the fire ripped through the building Sunday night.
The fire was called in at 9:53 p.m. Sunday night.
Fire departments from Clio, Bennettsville, and McCall responded to the fire, which was already well-involved when crews arrived.
"We all ran outside and the fire was straight up, just straight up, and the wind was blowing and all the ashes were coming this direction. [I've] never seen a fire just go straight up in the air like that," said Bethea.
Monday morning, the State Law Enforcement Division along with an arson dog combed through the charred debris looking for any clues into what started the blaze.
While those crews shifted through the debris, the pastor, Dr. C. L. Bethea, looked at the church he said he's lead for more than 33 years.
"We are asking you for your prayers that God will bless us and help us through this struggle that we are anticipating," said Dr. Bethea.
Right now, it looks like it will take a few months for test results that could show how this fire started.
The pastor said the church has about 60 members and plans to rebuild.