UPDATE 8/21/11 @ 5:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A church service in Charleston was stopped before it could even get started, Sunday.
The pastor of Pentecostal Affirming Ministries arrived before the afternoon service to find the building full of smoke.
Now, fire officials have determined it to be an attempted arson.
Members of the congregation just had the building donated to them about a month ago.
Moving into an older building, they already have a long list of renovations, and now they have an even bigger mess to clean up.
“The whole church just smelled horrible and was just completely filled with smoke,” Sarah McDougall, a member said.
When Pastor Tiffany Brashear arrived for Sunday afternoon's service, she found a bag of clothes on fire in the basement.
The clothes had been donated and were meant for people who need them. In starting up the new church, members are also starting a clothing and hygiene closet, a food pantry and a day center for the homeless.
“We're just really disappointed that someone would do this to a church in this community; especially a church that's trying as hard as we can to reach out to everybody that we can,” McDougall said.
The church’s motto is ‘one church, one faith, one family.’ Their acceptance of all races, social statuses and sexuality is what Brashear believes may have fueled the fire.
“I think there are people in the community that's not so accepting of and welcoming of maybe this type of church,” Brashear said. “I don't want to say it was a hate crime, but I don't even really know what to say at this point.”
“I don't see anybody that could damage a god's house,” music director Jeff Simpson said.
Even through the smoke, it's clear that nothing will keep them from following the same path as before.
“I don't think it will set us back,” McDougall said.
“It will make us more determined,” Marie Dawson, a church member, added.
“Just let this be a reminder of why we need to do what we need to do for the community,” Brashear said.
Brashear says the church has received threatening e-mails, texts and phone calls in the past, but never anything to this extent.
She says she'll start by contacting the insurance company, while the congregation works to make the building more secure.
The arson investigator spent several hours in the building Sunday afternoon, and has officially determined it to be an attempted arson.
He says there was no damage to the actual church, just the clothing in the basement.
Anyone with information is asked to call the fire prevention bureau at 304-348-8058.
Charleston Firefighters say they think it was an attempted arson.
It happened at about 1:00 p.m. Sunday at the Pentecostal Affirming Ministries Church.
The pastor says she was getting ready for afternoon service when she smelled smoke. When she followed the smell to the basement she found the room filled with dense smoke and a bag of clothes on fire.
The congregation just took over the church about a month ago, and the pastor says they've been working countless hours to fix up the building.
The arson investigator is still on the scene.
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