Investigators say fire at historic church is suspicious - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Investigators say fire at historic church is suspicious

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Church vehicles damaged by fire (Source: Pastor Patrick Harvin) Church vehicles damaged by fire (Source: Pastor Patrick Harvin)
Church vehicles damaged by fire (Source: Pastor Patrick Harvin) Church vehicles damaged by fire (Source: Pastor Patrick Harvin)
Church vehicles damaged by fire (Source: Pastor Patrick Harvin) Church vehicles damaged by fire (Source: Pastor Patrick Harvin)
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HOPKINS, SC (WIS) -

Jerusalem Baptist Church has been a staple in Lower Richland County since 1877. It's seen plenty of change and growth in the last two centuries, but Pastor Patrick Harvin never thought he'd come to church Sunday morning to find a charred shell of what used to be a bus and a van.

"I'm studying, getting ready for 8 a.m. service when I get a call from one of our trustees that our bus is on fire and get to the church and surprise, look what we see," he said.

The church's 25-passenger bus and van were destroyed by fire at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

"We really didn't focus so much on the van or the bus," said Harvin. "We really just focused on worshipping God because really those things can be replaced. We're more concerned about the soul of someone who would do something like this."

In December, the church completed building a new sanctuary to accommodate its growing congregation. The vehicles were paid off so they weren't budgeting for new buses.

"Obviously that was something not on our radar screen to have to provide transportation for the church," said Harvin. "We just trust God and know that he'll provide."

They used the van to pick up parishioners as far out as Northeast Columbia and Lexington. They take youth trips, and do missionary work.

The church is constantly doing community outreach, and that outreach that won't stop. Now they'll just have to be more creative.

"One thing it taught us is we have to be persistent in prayer," said Harvin. "And many times when you try to do positive, there are always things that will happen to try to discourage you."

The fire is considered suspicious by investigators. An arson investigator with the Richland County Sheriff's Department is currently working on this case to determine if in fact the fire was intentionally set and who is responsible.

"We're not a people that can pass judgement on anyone," said Harvin. "All of us have made mistakes, all of us have done things that don't make any sense at all. And we have to be the people of the Bible and love those who've done things wrong."

The church is in the process of beefing up security and controlling access to the grounds at night. Security cameras are being installed and they are looking into putting a gate around the property.

If you know anything that can help investigators, call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

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