CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Briar Creek Road Baptist Church, a predominantly black church in Charlotte, is getting national attention Thursday after authorities say it was set ablaze on purpose.
The timing of the fire was pivotal, occurring just days after the mass church shooting in Charleston. Congresswoman Alma Adams toured the damaged church, saying she had to see it for herself.
"I'm very concerned about what's been going on with churches being burned," said Adams.
Senior Pastor Mannix Kinsey doesn't know the reasoning behind the fire, but he's thankful the damage wasn't more significant.
"What is really going on? I someone being a copycat? I don't know. I am thankful the entire church didn't burn down," Kinsey said.
After being intentionally set on fire, Briar Creek Baptist is just a shell of its former self. What used to be the church's education classroom and summer camp area is now just a pile of ash and rubble. The rest of the church survived.
"We know it is arson. There has not been a determination if it's a hate crime. It's hateful, clearly mean-spirited," said Adams.
The question has left a clear cause for concern for the congregation.
"It's concerning to me for my members. We asked police to be with us because we don't want anything to happen," said Kinsey.
The NAACP and other local churches took up the same issue at a Thursday night meeting. Rt. Rev. Bishop George Edward Battle, Jr. of Little Rock AME Zion Church brought several questions to the table Thursday.
"As a pastor it leaves me feeling vulnerable. What can you do to keep your congregation and yourself safe? Do you stop letting strangers in, put in metal detectors, what do you do?" said Battle.
"We need to find a way to come together rebuild the church and our communities," said Tips from police include:
-Discuss this with your church members
-Check your lighting and security cameras
-Install an alarm system
-Do a drill with staff and/or congregation
-Schedule routine check-ups on church by church members
-Connect with Neighborhood Watch
-Connect with local PD about coming in to discuss safety
The FBI is investigating this church fire and others. They issued a statement on the investigations late Thursday.
"Preliminary investigations indicate that two of the fires were started by natural causes and one was the result of an electrical fire. All of the fires remain under an active investigation."