SHELTON — Zion Lutheran Church sits on the southwest corner of the intersection of Sioux and Grand Island roads, north of Shelton, at the top of the hill.

“It was a landmark,” said Ron Meyer Sr. of rural Shelton.

This morning the landmark went up in smoke.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 53125 Grand Island Road after a report of a structure fire at 7:05 a.m. At 7:12, the church was reported to be fully engulfed.

As the smoke diminished around 9:30 a.m., a few remnants of the church were visible, including the metal railing along the front steps, a metal basketball hoop and a swing set behind the church.

Though the church is being considered a total loss, firefighters were able to salvage one piece of the church: the steeple.

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Arlan Meyer said that members of the church replaced the steeple just a year ago.

The cemetery just to the east the church remained unharmed, but most of the building now is gone. Some members of the church gathered at the scene of the fire this morning.

Ron Meyer Sr. and his wife Opal sat in their pickup at the church grounds watching firefighters put out the blaze.

The couple was married in the church 64 years ago.

“It’s hard to see,” Ron Meyer Sr. said. A lifelong member of the church, Ron said he grew up just an eighth of a mile from the church.

Arlan said the church has 50 members with an average Sunday attendance of 30.

The church was set to have its first advent service of the season tonight, according to elders at the scene. Christmas Eve services also were scheduled at the church.

One member at the scene estimated the church was built in 1885.

Firefighters from Shelton, Gibbon, Wood River and Ravenna responded to the fire. The Nebraska State Fire Marshal also was called to the scene to investigate the cause of the fire.