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‘Just stay close to God,’ pastor counsels after arson

PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP)–When the cooks arrived to prepare the deacons’ breakfast March 3, smoke had engulfed the two-story educational building of Bellview Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla. Quickly, someone went down the block to summon the fire department and find the pastor, Greg McBride.

The blaze destroyed all the church offices and heavy smoke damaged the classrooms. Authorities believe that someone broke into the property and poured gasoline around the office equipment around 5:30 a.m. to start the fire. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI and agents of the State Fire Marshall’s Office are investigating. McBride said several leads are being checked, but he knows of no motive for the arson.

McBride and his congregation held worship services the next morning in the sanctuary without electricity.

“We must be doing something right because problems come when you are. The devil wants to slow us down.” McBride said.

The church also runs a daycare center. The 100 children moved to the gymnasium during this first week of operation after the fire.

“This has rallied our church,” the pastor said. “We have a strong building and grounds committee who have had to step up to the plate.”

The building was insured for more than $600,000 but the immediate need is office space and office equipment, McBride said.

“My office is my vehicle,” he said. He is hopeful that someone or some group can provide temporary space so that things can get back to normal for the 600-member congregation. He also lost his entire library of books.

When asked if he had any advice for other congregations or individuals going through this kind of loss he said, “Just stay close to God. The devil wants to turn everything around when you are doing something right. I ask that people pray for our church to unite and that our church would have a forgiving heart.”
Backer writes for the Florida Baptist Witness. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ARSON.

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  • Janice Backer