Two churches in Brewster caught fire Sunday morning, although the cause and connection of the two are unclear.
A fire at New Testament Baptist Church left the building with extensive damage while another fire left Sacred Heart Catholic Church with minimal damage.
Both cases are currently under investigation, according to Brewster Police Department Chief of Police Marcos Ruiz. The fire at Sacred Heart Catholic Church has been ruled intentional by investigators, Ruiz said in a release, but the cause of the New Testament Baptist Church is not known at this time.
In a Facebook Live church service Sunday morning, Pastor Corey Higdon said he received a call from the church secretary around 5 a.m. telling him the building had caught on fire and had “extensive damage.”
“I hate to use the word catastrophe, but that’s all that comes to mind,” he told viewers. “However, what seems catastrophic up front can be a blessing in disguise.”
Higdon said at the time that he didn’t know what caused it.
Greg Thorn, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Brewster, told The Spokesman-Review the structure fire did not entirely burn the New Testament Baptist Church to the ground, but it severely damaged the inside.
Thorn said he worries the damage was significant enough to deem the building beyond salvage.
Sacred Heart’s pastor, Pedro Bautista, said New Testament Baptist Church experienced about 50 to 70% damage to the building.
Bautista said there was evidence that someone tried to burn Sacred Heart Catholic Church, including a broken window and some sort of ignition device.
“But for some reason it didn’t catch,” he said, calling it “divine intervention.”
The church did experience nominal damage to the window, a nearby chair and part of the carpet.
Bautista said he doesn’t know if the two fires are connected but that it is strange they happened at times so close together.
“We cannot point fingers,” Bautista said. “We shouldn’t be making assumptions.”
For the small town of Brewster, Thorn said this has been a jarring experience.
“I think all the churches in town are kind of on edge right now,” Thorn said. “I talked to one Brewster police officer, and he provided me with safety tips other churches in the area can adopt, including motion-sensing lights.”
Bautista said rumors about who started the fires have been swirling and they are very difficult to control.
He said the community should focus more on coming together regardless of political or religious affiliation to identify the problems that may have led to the fires.
Local churches have already begun sharing their support on social media. The Diocese of Spokane tweeted Sunday prayers for the Brewster community.
Thorn said his congregation plans to band together with other local churches to extend support to New Testament Baptist Church and its community.
“Anything that we can do to help, we’ll do,” Thorn said.
“I know New Testament would do the same for my church, or any of the other churches in town, if the situation were reversed.”
Bautista said he is offering their extra facility to New Testament if they need a place to congregate.
Higdon told members on Facebook they would continue a Sunday morning service and Wednesday morning service via Facebook Live, adding that he was hoping to get hymnals to anyone who wanted to follow along at home.
“It’s out of our hands, out of our church hands,” he said. “We just need to take it one step at a time.”
Spokesman-Review correspondent Ellen Dennis contributed to this report.
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