10 years since black Chester church burned in unsolved arson

| March 4, 2012

CHESTER — There is a place of great joy in rural southern Chester County. It is a place of more than a century of uplifted spirits, unbending spirits – spirits that cannot be broken by the awful act of arson.

Antioch Baptist Church was bent, it was bowed, but this black church was never broken – even when someone 10 years ago this weekend decided to burn the church down.

That week a decade ago, a pastor of about 5 feet 3 inches in height named the Rev. Paul Long – a machinist by trade who, despite his most earnest scrubbing, could not remove a lifetime of labor from his callused and stained hands – rose up to the size of a giant and told his flock:

"Do not hate. We shall rebuild."

And that is exactly what happened.

And 10 years later, the church remains – without hate.

"I said then, and I say today, that when all seems to be at its most gloomy, that the light of Christ is never extinguished," Long said last week. "This fire hurt. We never denied it. But the fire could not take the church. It took the walls, the floorboards, the pews and windows.

"But it did not take what a church is – the people."

The fire was ruled an arson immediately. A police dog pointed investigators to the sanctuary, where the fire likely started with some accelerant.

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2012/03/04/3790896/10-years-since-black-sc-church.html#storylink=cpy

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