South Carolina pastor speaks out after arson attack on church’s gathering hall
The faithful congregants of a South Carolina apostolic church didn’t let suspected arsonists stop them from attending their Sunday worship over the weekend.
Earlier Sunday morning, leaders of the Spirit Filled Ambassadors for Christ church received the alarming call from police that the 20-year-old structure was ablaze, and that “someone intended it to be on fire,” according to lead administrator Shaneka Newell. Everything inside the executive building was destroyed, The Associated Press reports.
The perpetrator broke nearly all the windows on a church bus and reportedly started the blaze by setting tablecloths and various papers on fire, Newell said, adding “you can tell someone walked around and set what they wanted on fire.”
The walls and parts of the ceiling of the executive building will have to be replaced, a task that Newell described as “a huge impact to rebuild.”
The attack at this predominately Black church was no accident, according to police and fire officials.
The church is offering an unspecified reward for information that leads to the perp(s)/or an arrest.
“I spent the whole service trying to encourage everyone to lift spirits,” Pastor Deshawn Rouse told CNN affiliate WBMF. “We just spent the service praying for the person or persons who did it and asking God to fill that void that’s missing in that person’s life that would make them do that to a sanctuary.”
While the main sanctuary located across the street wasn’t damaged, the executive building plays a vital role in church activities.
“We have different programs in the building. We have all of our functions there. We rent the building out to the community as well for parties, banquets, conferences,” said Newell. “We are supposed to have a law enforcement program there in two weeks where we honor law enforcement.”
It remains unclear if the event will be postponed or moved to a new venue, “we just have to regroup and think about how to proceed. …We don’t want to stop. We are a church. We reach a lot of people,” Newell said.
The church may also have to postpone or relocate its Sunday school services.
“It just makes you have a thousand questions why someone would do this to us,” Rouse said.
The Spirit Filled Ambassadors for Christ church is located in Andrews, a small town about 60 miles north of Charleston.
According to The AP, state and local police are working together to investigate the fire and vandalism, something that typically occurs in arson cases at Black churches
A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise $20,000 for repairs.