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Juvenile identified as suspect in Hopewell church arson

Posted at 1:11 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 13:15:58-04

HOPEWELL, Va. – Hopewell Police say the person who intentionally set a church on fire Friday night is a juvenile.

Firefighters were called to the Hopewell Church of the Nazarene off Smithfield Avenue around 10:40 p.m. When crews arrived, they found heavy flames and smoke shooting up from the church.

Investigators ruled the incident an arson but now have obtained charges for a juvenile, which include arson and larceny. The name and age of the juvenile have not been released by investigators.

Church officials said in a Facebook post the structure is likely a total loss.

"It is with a heavy heart that we report our beloved church suffered a catastrophic fire late last night," the post reads. "Thankfully the professional first responders from Hopewell Fire & Rescue and Hopewell Police Department contained the fire quickly, and prevented a spread to our neighbors..."

David Woods, senior pastor at the church, said he and his congregation are shocked someone set fire to their church.

"It's still a matter of I cannot believe it," Woods said. "This is not a church. It's a church building. Our church is a population of people that are called together to make a difference in the world."

The fire did not stop members of the church from holding their Sunday services.

"Our place of gathering is gone," Woods said. "So, we’re concentrating on moving ahead, because as a church we are a community, not isolated to the Church of the Nazarene or even the church in Hopewell, but we are a worldwide body of Christ that strives to make a difference."

The church is accepting donations. Click here for more information.