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Church burns down after suspected lightning strike in west-central Minnesota

Service was held in the church parking lot the next morning.
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A church that burned to the ground over the weekend is believed to have been started by a bolt of lightning, according to the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office. 

Bethel Lutheran Church, located about 11 miles south of Battle Lake, went up in flames Saturday evening, with the blaze completely destroying the surrounding community's foundational structure. 

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Photos of the burning church were shared on social media by onlookers, including church member Cindy Kirkvold. 

The morning after the fire, service was held in the church parking lot – just as it has been Sundays since the coronavirus pandemic and related state orders had forced it to be done for the past three months. 

"Church in the parking lot took on a whole new meaning," wrote Kirkvold. "I just keep saying 'We are the church.'"

Pastor Todd Hylden told the Star Tribune that the fire started near the steeple, adding that people in the area reported hearing a "loud bang," possibly lightning, before the fire erupted. 

The State Fire Marshal is investigating. 

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