Charred church listed as arson

| February 23, 2010

Hours after an early Monday morning fire was doused at his downtown Lafayette church's door, a shaken Pastor Dale V. Draper was still trying to make sense of the situation.

"It looks like somebody poured gas on the door," Draper, who leads the Greater Macedonia Church of God in Christ, said Monday afternoon. "It doesn't make sense. I find this hard to believe.

"Why would anybody want to set our church on fire?"

Lafayette police logs listed the fire at the church, 17 S. Seventh St., across South Seventh Street from the Tippecanoe County Public Library, as arson. But additional information about the fire was not immediately available Monday evening from the Lafayette Fire Department.

The front door of the church was slightly charred inside and outside.

According to Lt. John Withers of the Lafayette Police Department, Lafayette police and firefighters responded to Greater Macedonia Church after receiving a call at 2:05 a.m. Withers said someone called from a nearby Village Pantry and stated that the church was possibly on fire.

Withers said Lafayette firefighters gained access to the building and a fire inspector was called to the scene to determine the cause.

Fire damage to the front door was minor and there was no apparent smoke damage.

Draper was visibly upset Monday afternoon. He said police called him about 3 a.m. Monday.

He said firefighters quickly put out the fire and a police officer searched the inside of the church for a possible intruder. No one was found.

Draper said no windows or other doors showed signs of a forced entry. The church will celebrate its second anniversary at the site in April. Draper has been pastor for 12 years. He said the present location is the congregation's fourth site in that time period.

"We're trying to help people in the community," he said. "We give away free food, feed the homeless and give people clothing," he said.

"We just had dinner Sunday night for people from Chicago and from out of state."

Draper said he doesn't want the 130-member congregation to get discouraged. The church also has a growing day care center.

The Unitarian Universalist Church in West Lafayette owns the historic building, which dates to 1867. The building is a former synagogue and was the first site for Temple Israel, which is now in West Lafayette.

Draper said the congregation is saving up money to buy the building.

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Category: Church Security

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