The First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi burned down yesterday in what is being described as a “total loss.” Officials say that arson is suspected.

Spray-painted on the parking lot in front of the destroyed house of worship were the words: “Bet you stay home now, you hypokrits.”

A few weeks ago, the church found itself embroiled in litigation with the city of Holly Springs over a COVID-19-related ban on public gatherings. After an in-church Bible study at First Pentecostal was dispersed by police, the church sued the city. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order allowing the church to hold drive-in services, and the city agreed to revise its ordinance to permit them. The state and local ban on in-church services, however, remained.

The pastor, Jerry Waldrop, was perplexed by the apparent act of arson. He told the Associated Press, “We’ve kind of racked our brains and we have no idea. No enemies that we know of. We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”

First Pentecostal was represented in its litigation against the city by the religious liberty law firm, Thomas More Society. It issued a public statement, saying:

“The Thomas More Society is saddened by the news that a fire destroyed First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs last night. To hear that the authorities are treating this as arson is distressing and we pray that the perpetrators of this terrible event will be brought to justice. Our most sincere prayers are with the people of this church and their pastor. They have been grieving the inability to gather as a congregation since the COVID-19 pandemic stay home orders forced the closure of their church home and now they must grieve the loss of this spiritual home, their place of worship.” 

It’s hard to believe that anyone could commit such an unspeakable act of domestic terrorism simply as an objection to Christians wanting to meet to together in worship, but that’s what it looks like at this point.

We need to pray that the perpetrator will be found and brought to justice, and for the congregation’s needs to be met as it rebuilds, and that ultimately the name of Jesus be glorified through this situation.


Photo from Facebook