Burned Churches Hold Sunday Services

Sunday marked the beginning of a long journey for church members in Bibb county -- both physical and spiritual.

Fires broke out at five churches in the area Friday morning. Three of the buildings were destroyed. Investigators suspect arson, but no arrests have been made.

Now, through prayer, the congregations are proving that a church is not the building, but the people. All five churches went ahead with Sunday morning services.

The congregations might now be considered religious refugees. They are banished from their church homes by an invisible enemy, but not defeated.

"It is a crisis," said Pastor James Weed of Shady Grove Baptist Church. "But God's people usually do their best work in a crisis."

Shady Grove opened it's doors to Ashby Baptist Church, one of three churches burned to the ground.

Forgiveness was the focus of the sermon. And for this small community whose right to worship was threatened, it's the one lesson they want to share with the world.

Pleasant Sabine Baptist Church members worshipped in a community center owned by one of it's members.

"We're going to rebuild on the same site, and with God's help, it's going to be ever better," said Pastor Robert Murphy.

Rehobeth Baptist's parish hall doubled as its sanctuary, overlooking the burned building.

Church member Mary Bell recalled, "My daughter saw it for the first time and said, 'the church fell down. It fell down!' It's hard to explain to them how someone could burn down a place of worship."

Remarkably, no one at Sunday's services was angry. Instead, churchgoers prayed for the arsonists, hoping they too find the peace which this community has found together.

"Several of our volunteer fire and rescue people were church members," explained Ashby Baptist Church member Audra Edwards. "The spirit of helping others, reaching out, and that determination -- it's absolutely a part of us."

FBI and ATF investigators continued their search of the crime scenes Sunday. They did not release their findings, but pledged that the investigation would be successful.

Reporter: Theo Travers