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Pastor remembers historic church burned in arson

Police investigating fire as arson at historic church
Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 11:20 PM EST
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MONTGOMERY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A fire at a historic church in Montgomery has been ruled arson. Bishop Thomas Murray Jr. was the last pastor at First Baptist Church in 2012. He remembers getting baptized there, not to mention the sadness he feels looking at the state of the building now.

“It’s time to tear it down,” Murray said.

The historic First Baptist Church sits on the hill overlooking the city.

“Drug dealers going in and breaking in in 2014, they broke in and damaged all of the old relics of the church, broke the baptismal glass,” Murray said.

Wednesday was the last in a long string of incidents. A fire burned through the church, and Montgomery Police are investigating it as arson. Mayor Greg Ingram said they have a suspect.

“If there was a word stronger than sad, I would use it, especially being in that church, the last pastor of the church and a childhood member knowing what it means to the community -- very sad,” Murray said.

The congregation moved off of the property in 2012 after flooding, but the church’s legacy at more than 130 years on the property on the hill still stands as one of the oldest Black churches in the area.

“Back in the day, they probably had 400 to 500 members,” Murray said.

Murray would love to see the church stand and rebuilt, but even more he just hopes no one gets hurt.

“I don’t want it torn down, but for safety reasons it’s probably time for that to happen because someone is going to get hurt and we don’t want that regardless of their invasion. We don’t want nobody hurt,” Murray said.

The suspect’s name hasn’t been released yet.

This is a developing story. Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

Click here for previous coverage of the fire.

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