HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. — UPDATE: (5/21 2:30 p.m.) Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves responded to the church fire on Twitter Thursday, saying he was “heartbroken and furious.”
A church in North Mississippi was destroyed after an explosion caught the building on fire.
What was left of the First Pentecostal Church was still smoldering five hours after the fire started.
Investigators said they picked up multiple spray paint cans that may have been used for graffiti and that there was a large explosion near the back of the building that blew out the front.
“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,” said Kelly McMillen, Marshall County official.
Pastor Jerry Waldrop was unsure what to do from here because the church is a total loss.
“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,” said Waldrop. “I'll get with our faithful people, and maybe we'll rent a building or whatever we need to do for the time being.”
Waldrop said the church planned to rebuild on site.
“We have the means, so whatever it takes, that's what we will do,” Waldrop said. “We have a tight group that's been faithful, so whatever means are necessary, that is what I will do.
Waldrop tried to make sense of what happened to his church.
“It's just hard to wrap your head around the idea that someone may have orchestrated this or done this,” he said.
This was not the first time the church has made headlines recently.
The church recently filed a federal lawsuit against Holly Springs after the city cited Waldrop for violating the stay at home order by having services in the church instead of a drive-up service on a stormy Easter Sunday.
The church claimed the restriction violates its First Amendment rights.
To prove a point, Waldrop's congregation walked into Walmart on a Sunday to show people were allowed to gather at the store but not in church.
Waldrop would not speak to FOX13 about that incident.
Church members hugged and cried in the parking lot as investigators sifted through the rubble for clues to figure out who might be responsible.
“We have really wracked our brains and we have no idea, no enemies,” he said.
A reward was offered for any information related to the fire. Call Marshall County police at 662-252-1311.