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Local landmark church struck by lightning twice in 5 weeks

Posted at 11:30 PM, Aug 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-09 09:35:57-04

PALM BEACH, Fla. — A local landmark church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea on Palm Beach, has been struck by lightning twice recently, causing extensive damage throughout its electrical system.

On a normal Sunday service, the bells are ringing, the organ is playing, and if you weren’t among the 500 people there in person, you could stream it online, led by Reverend James Harlan.

“It’s a beacon of hope in Palm Beach and in Palm Beach County it’s a place that the community needs to be functioning well,” he said in an interview inside the church.

Service started in the historic church in 1927. It’s weathered every hurricane thrown at it. But recently, mid-afternoon summer storms haven’t been kind.

“Over the last five weeks we’ve had two major lightning strikes that have taken out a number of our essential systems,” he said.

Between those two strikes, a microburst tore through their playground, ripping part of a tree down, damaging nearby fencing and a light.

“People will say to me, 'Father James you can take care of that, just talk to God.' But I don’t think God works that way,” he said. “My explanation is it’s random, it’s frustrating. We’ll do everything we can to try and minimize it and it seems like lightning strikes here sometimes and it’s frustrating.”

After the first strike, they were able to bring the organ, the bells, the steaming, and air conditioning back online, only to get hit again, causing more damage.

They’re facing a bill upwards of $100,000.

“What’s hard about it is when we have to spend extra money on systems like that, that’s money that’s not going to serve people, and that’s hard for us,” he said.

On top of the repairs, they’re looking at different systems to put in place to limit the damage from a lightning strike.

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