South Florida

Lightning struck a church once. Then it happened again. And a wicked wind came, too

Bethesda-by-the-Sea, a landmark church in Palm Beach, was hit by two lightning strikes and a microburst in the past five weeks.
Bethesda-by-the-Sea, a landmark church in Palm Beach, was hit by two lightning strikes and a microburst in the past five weeks. Bethesda-by-the-Sea

Was it a sign from God?

A South Florida church hit twice by lightning within weeks, and the pastor says it was just bad luck.

Bethesda-by-the-Sea, a landmark church at 141 South County Rd. in Palm Beach, has seen a lot of storms in its 130 years.

But this summer has been something else.

“It’s like the storms have come and fallen right on top of us,” the Rev. James Harlan said.

First, a lightning strike extensively damaged the church’s electrical system last month. The air conditioning, the audio system, the organ, the bells, the service’s live video streaming — it all went down.

It took two weeks to fix, Harlan said.

And last Sunday, it happened again. Lightning struck and everything went down.

A microburst also barreled through the church’s playground between the strikes, he said. The wind sucked a tree out of the ground, broke a light post and caved in part of a fence.

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A microburst also barreled through the church’s playground, he said. It ripped a tree out of the ground, broke a light post and caved in part of a fence. Bethesda-by-the-Sea

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Part of Bethesda-by-the-Sea’s fence caved in after a microburst barreled through the church’s playground . Bethesda-by-the-Sea

The three hits happened in the past five weeks — and are costing the church at least $100,000.

Harlan said it’s a blessing the weather struck during the least busiest times for the church and that no one was hurt. But he’s also frustrated.

One of the damaged systems involves the organ’s specialized circuit board, he said, and it will need parts special-ordered as well as a specialized technician.

The church lives on donations, he said, and every dollar spent on repairs is a dollar the church can’t give to those who need it.

Now, he’s asking for help.

“We are doing important work to share the love of God and will continue to do this work faithfully .. .but the work is best when we come together,” he said.

Besides the repairs, the church is also looking into ways of how they can improve their lightning suppression system.

“God’s creation is beautiful and powerful and it reminds us that we’re not in control,” Harlan said. “Sometimes, that’s not a bad thing.”

Anyone interested in helping can visit www.bbts.org

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Real Time/Breaking News Reporter. There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and I cover it. Graduated with honors from Florida International University. Find me on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
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