Church Leaders Don't Believe They are an Easy Target

After more than 40 years in the community, New Bethel Baptist Church is gone. A few days ago, the building burned to the ground in an early morning fire. New Bethel only had a few members, but local religious leaders said the loss of any church often affects the whole community.

Pastor Valencia Edner of Collins Chapel C.M.E. Church said, "The church has always needed to play a role in the community because it's made up of people in the community, and often we get stuck on - as my aunt says - 'what the building is', but the church is made up of people."

Fire inspectors are investigating what caused the blaze at New Bethel and if it was set intentionally, but Pastor Paul Geye, who leads a church just down the street, doesn't believe sanctuaries are more likely to experience crime.

"I don't feel that we're more vulnerable, nevertheless, churches do have to be more cautious these days and don't have their doors open 24 hours a day, because they're a lot of people that don't feel a connection with Christ or with the church," said the Angel of Joy Lutheran Church leader.

And those people are who churches are trying to reach out to the most.

"Whether we're small or whether we're large, we still have a significance in the community," said Edner. "We just gotta recognize it and sometimes pull together to do some things we can't do alone."

That's exactly what the members of New Bethel Baptist Church are doing. The pastor said the disaster brought his congregation closer together. They're planning to rebuild, but until then, Sunday service will be held at the pastor's home.