The Christian Post.com By Samuel Smith Thurs., May 21, 2020
Mississippi church that filed a lawsuit against a town ban on worship gatherings was destroyed by a fire Wednesday morning that investigators believed was set as an act of arson.
According to local news reports, firefighters responded to a fire at First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs around 2 a.m. on Wednesday. Responders arrived to find the church building engulfed in flames.
Fox 13 reports that investigators found cans of spray paint on the ground with graffiti on the pavement of the church parking lot. The graffiti in the parking lot reads: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits (sic).”
“We do believe that based on the evidence and what we have seen at the scene and on top of the hill this was an arson,” Marshall County Major Kelly McMillan said, according to the news station.
Pastor Jerry Waldrop, who has pastored the church for over 30 years, told news station WMC5 that it’s “hard to wrap your head around the idea that someone may have orchestrated this or done this.”
Waldrop said the church has “no enemies that we know of.”
“We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this,” he said. Waldrop told Fox 13 that he’s unsure of what to do because the church building is now destroyed.
“We are going to keep the faith, and we’re going to keep doing what we have always done, and maybe not on this location,” Waldrop said. “I’ll get with our faithful people, and maybe we’ll rent a building or whatever we need to do for the time being.”
In a press conference Wednesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he’s going to keep track of the arson investigation.
First Pentecostal Church had filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs, which barred worship gatherings as part of its safer-at-home policies enacted to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Although Reeves included houses of worship as essential entities that can be open to more than 10 people in a statewide order, officials in Holly Springs have deemed churches to be non-essential.
Police in Holly Springs previously disrupted an Easter service and a mid-week Bible study at the church and reportedly told attendees they could be slapped with criminal citations.
In late April, a federal judge sided with the church and ruled that its congregants have the right to hold drive-in services. However, the church’s legal push for the right to have full in-person services is still pending.