Caroline Jones
Contributing Writer

Weather is commonly joked as the conversation topic for when there is no topic. On an awkward first date, one might ask what his or her date thought of the weather they were having. Or in a lull in conversation, one might look up at the sky and comment on the beautiful day. This past weekend in the mid-Michigan community, the weather was more of a topic of interest. At open houses, the storms that went through the Eaton County area caused families to talk about what if the storm had hit their homes.
Friday morning’s thunderstorm brought a lot of rain, flooding the highway to Lansing and slowing down traffic to work. And with all that rain, came lightning. If you should want to go for a drive in downtown Charlotte, I would suggest driving down Lawrence Hwy. to see the First Congregational Church which got a piece of what Zeus was offering.
The community of the congregational church has been around since the 1850s, about twenty years after its founding. For a while, they met for worship in the courthouse. The building that was struck on June 18 was not built and completed until 1880.
In the case of Friday morning, the lightning strike caused the bell tower to catch fire. The cross that had once adorned the roof, took the brunt of the strike and has since been removed due to the damage that it had sustained. Little other damage was sustained.
Pastor Bruce of the Congregational Church said of the incident that it was the fast thinking of local Matt McNew and Charlotte’s Fire Department that kept the damage minimal. McNew was getting home from work when he saw the lightning strike the belltower and quickly called 911. Pastor Bruce said that upon arrival, the fire department gained quick access to the building, having a key for this very need. Once the fire was put out, the fire department helped clean up the damage done. “We at First Congregational Church are grateful for the quick responses of both Matt and the Emergency Responders,” said Pastor Bruce, “What is more, despite many responders having other jobs, they were kind, thoughtful, concerned about minimizing damage to the existing structure and put in the time that was needed.”
Something must attract lightning to this historic building as this is the second time that this building has been struck. In 1984, the building was struck. Pastor Bruce said that Charlie Green of Burkhead-Green-Kilgo found the cross shattered on the backside of the funeral home across the street. He had been there when the lightning struck and saw the smoke across the street at the church. “Meanwhile,” said Pastor Bruce, “the fire department had been called to a grass fire or barn fire out west of town, and some of the fire fighters were coming to the station to go fight that fire when they saw the smoke from the steeple.”
Luckily, everyone was safe in the case of this June 18 storm. Hopefully the history of the First Congregational church can be a part of your next weather conversation.