16-year-old boy charged with arson in Hopewell church fire

HOPEWELL, Va. – A 16-year-old boy has been charged with arson in connection with a fire last week at the Hopewell Church of the Nazarene.

Police confirm the juvenile has been served six petitions for arson, two counts of burglary, trespassing, grand larceny and vandalism/destruction of property.

The teen has not been identified because of his age.

Firefighters were called to the Hopewell Church of the Nazarene off Smithfield Avenue around 10:40 p.m. on April 5. When crews arrived, they found heavy flames and smoke shooting up from the church.

Investigators believe the blaze started in the sanctuary of the church. No one was injured.

Church officials said in a Facebook post the structure is likely a total loss.

"It is with a heavy heart that we report our beloved church suffered a catastrophic fire late last night," the post reads. "Thankfully the professional first responders from Hopewell Fire & Rescue and Hopewell Police Department contained the fire quickly, and prevented a spread to our neighbors..."

David Woods, senior pastor at the church, said he and his congregation are shocked someone set fire to their church.

"It's still a matter of I cannot believe it," Woods said. "This is not a church. It's a church building. Our church is a population of people that are called together to make a difference in the world."

The fire did not stop members of the church from holding their Sunday services.

"Our place of gathering is gone," Woods said. "So, we’re concentrating on moving ahead, because as a church we are a community, not isolated to the Church of the Nazarene or even the church in Hopewell, but we are a worldwide body of Christ that strives to make a difference."

Pastor Woods also hopes he can speak with the teen and family soon.

“We’re heart broken for him, for his family and wish the best," said Woods. “If at all possible, we’d love to reach out and naturally extend kindness to him and his family seeing as they’re going to be troubled by this for quite some time to come.”

Pastor Woods said the church was ruled a total loss and they plan to tear down and rebuild in the same location.

"So we’re going to get that taken care of as soon as possible and then rebuild. We definitely want to come back to this beautiful corner and this neighborhood and continue to minister and serve our community," Woods said.

The church is accepting donations. Click here for more information.

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