UPDATE: Three congregations that lost their churches in “suspicious” fires this week are having their first services since the crimes.
Those fires happened at historically African-American churches in St. Landry Parish. To read more, click here.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning is now confirming they are connected.
There are no suspects wanted at this time, and deputies are offering additional security for other churches.
“It caused us to pray harder and pray more frequently…this is the time for us to pull together,” said Rev. Gerald Toussaint, leader of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.
On Sunday Greater Union, St. Mary and Mt. Pleasant Baptist churches showed their resilience.
“What do you think about when they destroyed the church – I said they didn’t destroy the church, they destroyed the building,” Toussaint said.
Toussaint’s was the most recent church to burn down. He says although the physical place of worship no longer stands, this hasn’t broken their foundation.
“It steals something from you, it robs you but then.. right now is the time to find something to pick them up,” Toussaint said. “Because I know their head is down. I know they’re spiritually weakened.”
But through singing praises and a ceremony full of energy, many of their spirits were uplifted.
“Something is not right, something isn’t right but God has the last word,” said Ethel Thomas, a member of Mt. Pleasant. “We’re going to keep on keeping on.”
Thomas has been attending services at Mt. Pleasant for the past 35 years.
She says not being in her usual church was tough but she’s looking forward to what’s ahead.
“It was heartbreaking, I wanted to cry but I say I’ll hold it in,” she said. “I had cried so much already when they called to let me know that our church was burned. I didn’t know what else to do, I just said “Lord you’re in control.”
Although their faith has been tested, it hasn’t been taken.
“We don’t know why, we don’t know when, we don’t know who,” Toussaint said. “We will let the authorities handle that, but we just know a higher power and a higher authority who can bring this thing to fruition.”
The state fire marshal was also at Mt. Pleasant’s service to update church members on the case while asking them to stay vigilant. He says arsons can take months to solve because most of the evidence is burned at the scene; but they’re determined to find who’s responsible.”
“When people say there’s been three fires are they connected? Obviously they’re connected,” Browning said. “Well tell me how they’re connected? We just can’t say that publicly. The beauty of the evidence that we know, only we know that and only the people responsible know that.”
It’s making national news – the tragedy of three historically African-American churches burned in the space of a few weeks.
But if someone was hoping to break the spirit of those churches, they failed. Because on Sunday morning, the people of those three churches were together and worshiping as usual. They were in different spaces, to be sure, but they were joyful and loud in their praise today.
“God is good. Even in this situation, all of Mount Pleasant is alive and well,” said the Rev. Gerald Toussaint, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. “The devil don’t realize what he’s done. Without this tragedy, Rev. Gerald wouldn’t have ever had a chance to preach to a nation. And if there ever was a time that this nation needed to hear the word of God? Oh, they done picked a bad time.”
Mt. Pleasant’s congregants joined Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church today, many dressed in white, all enthusiastic. Here’s our Facebook live from part of Mount Pleasant’s worship service this morning:
Each of the three churches has a temporary home. To read about that, click here. We will have more from the services later today on KATC TV-3.