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Suspected arson a reminder of Nashville church’s mission

Though the structure was unharmed, Axis Church lost all its furniture and equipment to smoke damage when a Molotov cocktail was thrown through a window.

NASHVILLE (BP) – An investigation is underway regarding a fire earlier this week at The Axis Church in Germantown, a Nashville neighborhood. The fire was caused by a Molotov cocktail thrown through the front window Monday night (Sept. 13).

Local media reports say firefighters arrived at the church around 2 a.m. Tuesday, extinguished a small fire inside the building and cleared out the smoke.

The law classifies the fire at Axis Church as an act of terrorism and a federal crime.

Jeremy Rose, lead pastor of The Axis Church, said he awoke Tuesday morning to multiple missed calls from The Nashville Fire Department and representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Officials told Rose that firefighters saw a crack in the front window before they smashed through it to extinguish the fire. A connection was not initially made between the broken window and the fire until Rose watched surveillance footage from the church’s lobby camera that showed the Molotov cocktail being thrown through the window at 10:28 p.m. Monday night.

Upon discovering the video, Rose said he immediately contacted ATF officials, who showed up to the building within minutes, and things became “like a CSI scene.”

Because the act was committed against a house of worship, the law classifies it as an act of terrorism and a federal crime. But Rose said the congregation is choosing to see it a different way.

“We’re not receiving it as an attack, we’re receiving it as a gift,” he said. “It’s a gift from the Lord to remind us of our mission of why we’re in downtown Nashville and it’s affirming that we’re in the right place. The church exists because this stuff exists. This clarifies the need for the mission of the church in these sorts of communities.”

Rose and his family planted The Axis Church near downtown Nashville almost 12 years ago. They choose the church’s location specifically because it was considered to be a dangerous area at the time, and they wanted to be a light in the community.

Despite the dynamics of the community changing somewhat over the years, Rose said the mission of the church remains, and this difficult moment serves as a reminder of that mission.

“I told my staff before we talked with the media, this is proof that we’re needed here,” Rose said. “I’m not looking at this as persecution, and I’m not looking at this as we’re victims. We’re going to have trouble in this life, so these things should never surprise us.

“In light of this we are being reminded of our purpose, our mission, and the necessity for us to be right here. … I’ve never been more excited than I am right now in the life of our church. I’m super pumped about what God is doing through this situation.”

Regarding the unidentified person responsible for the crime, Rose said the Gospel enables church members to respond with grace.

“Our message to this perpetrator is, ‘Don’t come through the window, come through the door,’” he said. “Don’t feel like you have to break the window to get in.”

Rose added that whoever set the fire “could be one of our next elders or someone leading our women’s ministry, who knows.”

“We all respond in different ways carrying life’s struggle and burden,” he said. “This is the way this person responded. … I encouraged my people to see this guy’s not that much different than we are. It’s been beautiful to see our people respond with a Gospel shadow and Gospel reflex through the situation.”

The fire did not damage the building’s structure, but smoke damage destroyed just about all of the church’s furniture and equipment inside the building.

The church still expects to meet this Sunday for one service, but will have no sound system and people can either bring their own chairs or stand.

Despite the limitations, Rose said it will be an important time for the church body to fellowship together, sing together, proclaim the Gospel and share communion.

“It will be healing and powerful to be together,” he said. “The important thing is just that we’re together after something like this. I think having only service will be uniting in a real profound way.”

Below: Surveillance video from the Axis Church lobby shows what appears to be a Molotov cocktail being thrown through a window.