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(CNN) —  

Standing in the rubble of what was once the parish hall of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Panama City, Florida, the Rev. Luke Farabaugh described the explosive storm and the destruction that followed – but he also shared a message of hope and gratitude with which he is defining the disaster to his congregation.

“It’s surreal,” Farabaugh told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Thursday. “Earlier they were saying that a bomb went off. It feels like that with all the trees down.”

“I’m standing here in the parish hall … this hall is ruined,” he said, surveying the damage.”The church building has significant damage. The stained glass window, we have … glass everywhere … We’re really hurting over here.”

The damage is not contained to just the church building. The storm also destroyed the roof of the house where priests live, and apartments nearby.

“You could feel the pressure in your ears like you were in a plane,” he said. “It was crazy … it was a very scary event.”

Yet, despite the devastation, Farabaugh said he and his congregation celebrated Mass Thursday afternoon – “a really beautiful service” – choosing to dedicate it to “thanksgiving to God.

“Things, we can replace,” he said, speaking on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “We’ve seen a lot of signs of hope … I’ve been telling people … to have hope.”

“Hope is that even if the storm does come, even if I lose my car, my house, my family, even if I lose my life, blessed be God,” he explained. “Our reward isn’t just in this life but in the life to come. So we’re just trying to give people hope at this point.”