Pastor visits arsonist who torched church

| June 2, 2013

From the ashes of an arson attack that destroyed a Feilding church has arisen forgiveness and reconciliation with the man responsible.

The Bowen St Baptist Church community centre was torched in January 2011 by Feilding firebug Richard David Elliott, a security guard tasked with patrolling the town's CBD between 9pm and 3am each night.

Elliott was jailed for seven years after lighting a string of fires, including two at the church, which caused nearly $1.8 million worth of damage.

While the attack devastated the church's congregation, Pastor Allen Hince has reached out to Elliot in prison, visiting him regularly and offering him solace.

"Human nature can be quite fickle, and there were circumstances that caused this young guy to do what he did," Mr Hince said.

"Now what he did was very wrong, and he knows that, but he found he was just doing it, and couldn't stop, and I think we're all susceptible to that type of thing.

"What has come out of that is he has shown true remorse for what he has done and, as a church, we have acknowledged our forgiveness towards him."

Maybe it's in the nature of a pastor to look beyond past discretions, Mr Hince said, but he understands why Elliot did it and doesn't blame him.

"It doesn't matter who we are, if we were in the same situation, with the same circumstances, with the same stresses, with the same outlooks, we would probably all do the same.

"And, when we confront somebody who's done that kind of damage, whether it's been theft or arson, what we can do is offer them the thing that they're longing for the most, and that's acceptance and forgiveness.

"It's not to judge and say 'You're this and I'm that', but to say, 'Actually, we're all human'."

And today the Feilding Baptist Church is holding an open day to celebrate its rebuilt parish.

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Category: Church Security

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