Albany Church burned in arson case - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany Church burned in arson case

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December 31, 2007

Albany -- Stunned members of the Metropolitan Baptist Church, formerly known as Trinity Baptist,  stood across the road, as Police, Fire, and State Arson Investigators searched their church for clues to who set it on fire about 7:30 Monday morning.  

Metropolitan Baptist Senior Pastor Dr. Joseph Howard said "I think it is bigotry, because of the damage that has been done."

 Investigators say someone broke into the back door of the church, burglarized and vandalized the school and church offices before setting the fire in the sanctuary. Albany Police Spokesperson Phyllis Banks said "televisions broken, things of that nature. Papers and stuff sprawled all over the place."

State Fire Investigators say the fire did heavy damage, mostly in the sanctuary, estimated at about 150-thousand dollars. The rest of the building also sustained smoke and water damage.

The Metropolitan Baptist Church has been embroiled in legal battles for two years over it's work to build senior housing units on Willie Pitts Road. The Country Club Housing Association has fought the construction of those units, saying it would lower their home's value.

 The Church Pastor says he does not know if that controversy was involved in the arson Howard said "I have to say it is a hate crime, but I can't say who did it."

 Investigators say they don't think anything was stolen from the church, and that there is no evidence of any hate crime.

 Other Church Ministers have offered help to Metropolitan Baptist. Their New Year's Eve services are being held at the Gethesemane Worship Center , and Tuesday afternoon another service will be held at the Mt. Hebron Baptist Church on South Madison.

Despite the fire, Pastor Howard says their faith will carry on. Howard said "the building has been burned, but the Church is safe. The Church has not been hurt. The people are fine, so we can pick up the broken pieces and move on."

Investigators have told Howard it could be a week before he is allowed into the Church building, while they continue their investigation.

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