Pastors Cornelius and Maggie Anna Duncan say they're used to threats and criminal acts against them. They're a bi-racial couple and they say they believe many don't approve of that union.
“People just don't like us,” says Rev. Cornelius Duncan.
A year ago, they say threats against them scared away their congregation at Jesus Christ Chapel. Now, the church is completely gone, destroyed in a fire they think is suspicious.
“This is a hate crime, a prejudice act that people [have] been putting against us. They need to repent,” says Rev. Maggie Anna Duncan.
Cornelius Duncan says he was remodeling the church and putting in new electrical wiring. He was hoping to reopen the church for worship in a few weeks. “We're not going to step back from the work of the Lord. Our goal and mission is to do what God has called us to do,” he said.
Officials are not commenting on the cause, only to say it is under investigation. However, state police have been called, but with church fires that is standard protocol.
However, the Duncan’s say a fire last July that destroyed a trailer on their property was also suspicious. And last February, the man who they think frightened off their flock pleaded guilty to terrorist threatening.
Court records show where he threatened the Duncan’s and even said he would burn the church then. He was given probation and ordered to stay way from the Duncan’s.
But if this fire is ruled arson, the Duncan’s have a message for the fire starter. “The only thing I can tell you is that whoever did this, I feel sorry for your soul. I hope and pray that you will repent of your sins,” Cornelius said.
The Duncan’s say the church was not insured, but they will rebuild.