Arsonist attempts to torch Castle Rock church

| November 8, 2011

Chase Daniel Alderman seemed to do everything he could to set the United Methodist Church in Castle Rock on fire early Sunday morning, police and congregants said.

Alderman, 21, of Castle Rock went through the empty church setting fire to artificial flowers, a table cloth, cardboard boxes and the pastor's desk, Castle Rock officer Branden McNew said Monday. In all, he set at least six fires — and for no apparent reason, McNew said.

Yet the church, which is more than 100 years old, didn't burn down, and no one was injured.

The pastor is calling it nothing less than a miracle.

"I think everyone believes that the situation could have been much worse, and God was with us," said Vonda McFadden, who has been the church's pastor for two years. "If I hadn't believed in God before Sunday morning, I would believe in God now."

McFadden said there were a number of odd coincidences about the fires that have lead congregation members to believe that the church was somehow divinely spared. For example, she said, one fire burned right up to an old Bible, but left the book untouched. Another fire in McFadden's office was extinguished by an old framed picture of Jesus, which also didn't burn.

Symbolism aside, church members said they're astonished the church is simply standing.

"We have witnessed a miracle," said Linda Bauska, 63, who discovered the remnants of the fires Sunday morning.

Bauska, the chairwoman of the congregation's outreach team, said she showed up at the church, at 241 First Ave., to set up for a special church service commemorating upcoming Veterans Day. She said Monday that she soon noticed a burned bouquet of flowers in the basement, then a broken window, then the remnants of other fires throughout the building.

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