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Church Services Press On After Fire Rips Through 98-Year-Old Church In Watts

WATTS (CBSLA) — Investigators Sunday were trying to determine the cause and culprits responsible for starting a fire at a nearly 100-year-old church in the Watts area.

Flames ripped through St. John's United Methodist Church on Saturday, burning pews, causing visible smoke damage on the tower, and other noticeable damage to both the exterior and interior of the building.

watts church fire

For more than an hour, 70 firefighters fought to put out the fire at the church, which was vacant at the time. The fire quickly spread to the lower level and the sanctuary. The cause of the fire remains unknown but is under investigation, with suspicion of arson.

Witnesses say they saw someone smoking in front of the church just before the house of worship started to burn.

Until repairs are made as a result of the fire, the church services were expected to be held in the parking lot. Church trustees worked into the night to board up the front of the church.

Members of the congregation joined outside of the church on Sunday, with no intention of the fire interrupting their worship.

"God, we just thank you that no one was hurt," one of the members said during a morning prayer outside of St. John's, which has been a staple of the Watts community for 98 years.

Georgetta Blunt, one of the many who gathered Sunday said her world was flipped upside down when she received a text that her beloved church was on fire. "I just froze," she said.

"It's like a part of my soul has been destroyed," said Jimmy Nichols, a church member. "All of the good times and memories, and worship to God himself, it effects my soul deeply."

watts church fire

Still, employees and church members f0und a way to look at the best of the situation, including Storm Hopkins, who works at St. John's. "God giveth, and God taketh," he said.

Once the flames were extinguished, and smoke cleared, entrants into the church saw that one thing remained undamaged, the Bibles and the hymn books. "Holy cow! Something good stayed," said Angie McCard, one of the church's workers.

It is unknown how long, and for what price, repairs will take, though through it all, the church promises to continue holding services throughout that time.

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