‘We will rebuild’: Local pastor responds to fire that heavily damaged church

Arson investigators looking for cause of fire which started outside New Testament Missionary Baptist Church

SAN ANTONIO – A local pastor said he is heartbroken about the damage done by fire to his church early Friday morning.

The fire, which broke out at New Testament Missionary Baptist Church around 12:30 a.m., appears to have started on an outside wall, according to San Antonio firefighters.

However, the flames and smoke spread inside, causing heavy damage throughout the tiny building, located in the 1200 block of East Crockett Street.

“We’ve lost everything,” said Rev. Bernard Willis, as he later walked through the rubble. “Of course, it breaks our hearts. But we know that we are the church.”

The fire got into the attic, blackened walls, and destroyed musical instruments and parts of the sound system.

A bible lay among the rubble on the floor of the church Sanctuary. (KSAT 12 News)

Only a small area in the vestibule of the church appeared to be untouched.

The building has been home to New Testament and its largely African American congregation since the late 1960s.

Willis said there currently are about a dozen regular members.

Arson investigators have not yet determined the exact cause of the fire or whether the church could have been targeted, perhaps because of race.

The pastor, though, suspects it may have been intentional.

“Yesterday, when we had our Bible study, a homeless gentleman came by and shared with me that he saw a gentleman pulling on the front burglar bar here. And he ran him off,” Willis said.

He believes it’s possible that person came back and started the fire.

A golden ornament was one of few items in the sanctuary that survived the fire. (KSAT 12 News)

Either way, Willis said it will not be the end of his church or their weekly worship.

He said the church does have insurance, as well as several other sister churches that the congregation can call home temporarily.

“I’m not even worried about that. We’ll worship the Lord somewhere in the city,” Willis said. “We will rebuild, and we will go forward.”

About the Authors

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.

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