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Congregation Comes Together For First Time After Church Fire

It was a much different scene Sunday after an intentionally set fire devastates this Prairie Grove church.

It was a much different scene Sunday after an intentionally set fire devastates this Prairie Grove church.  Members say they are still horrified by the events that took place early Friday morning but, they've decided to put it in the past and focus on the future.

An emotional day as Illiniois Chapel Baptist Church members gather together for Sunday morning service.  Fresh paint now covers the satanic symbols left behind by arsonists who vandalized the church.

"It's very depressing. This used to be my childhood church and I grew up coming to church here and my grandpa's funeral was held here so it really sucked,” says church member, James Darnell.

"I was angry, I was absolutely terrified. This is where I started my music and where I built up my confidence. It took me a little while to get over it. I am still a little bit angry," adds Leslie Jones.

Many members are working through the anger and are now beginning the healing process.

"I think there's going to be a lot of blessings that come through this. Whether it's to bring more to Christ, which is what we hope for; and for people to focus and see what's going on here. That God is alive,” says Sandy Norris

The church is insured and will be rebuilt but some of the items lost in the fire are irreplaceable.

"The piano in the building, it's gone.   All of these old pews are, well antiques and that's what hurts," says Pastor Lynville Eaton has his eyes fill with tears.

Pastor Eaton says he wants his congregation to stay positive and for those guilty of making this mess, he forgives them.

"We love them, we would like for them to find the Lord as their savior and turn their lives around. This is not a joke."

Church members say at this point, all they can do is pray for those responsible for this tragedy.

Pastor Eaton says the Sheriff's Department does not think this incident was a hate crime or gang related.  The suspects are believed to be from Prairie Grove.  Members of the church believe the culprits are kids pulling a prank.

To help the church with cleanup costs, donations can be made at any Arvest Bank.