Derby Road Baptist Church, Watford, has been the subject of an arson attack, although it is not yet clear if it was religiously motivated.
Pastor Tom Forryan was the one to discover it. In his words: ‘I discovered it myself at 9.30am on Saturday 1 February. As I was walking past, a member of the public pointed out that there were wisps of smoke escaping from the building. I opened the back door and was confronted with a wall of smoke. I immediately called the fire brigade, who were able to put the fire out by mid-afternoon.
‘The damage is not as bad as some reports have made it appear. The exterior of the building is unaffected, and, as far as we can tell, it remains structurally sound. The interior wooden floor has burnt through badly; many wooden chairs are burned and there is soot and smoke damage throughout.
‘What is distressing is that it seems certain that the fire was started deliberately. We truly have no idea why this might be or who could want to do such a thing. We do have Jesus’ own words, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”.
‘There was a wedding due to take place in our building on that same Saturday. Thankfully, we were able to relocate to Grace Baptist, Cecil Street, at short notice and the wedding went ahead more or less as planned.
‘We have been overwhelmed with many messages of support, offers of help and people praying for us. We know that our God is with us and his work will continue.
‘The week after the fire, five Cornhill students joined us for an outreach week. This involved a certain amount of re-planning meetings and events. On the other hand, many people around the country, who heard of the fire, were praying for that week.
‘We know that many people are also praying for the perpetrator to repent and find forgiveness in Christ. We have been surprised by the news coverage — on BBC Southeast, Premier Radio and even the Daily Telegraph.
‘On Friday 8 February, the Watford Observer ran an article and included all the gospel quotes that I had given them. We believe that the Lord will use all this to build his church.’