Ferguson churches are burning: How are pastors responding to the arson?

Even after the seventh church in eleven days was set on fire in the St. Louis area, many pastors are responding with faith and a united front.

J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP/File
Congregants pray during the outdoor service at the New Life Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Oct. 18, 2015. Someone or some group has been setting fire to predominantly black churches in the St. Louis area, and investigators are trying to determine if the arsonist is targeting either religion or race.

Early Thursday morning, yet another church with a predominantly black congregation was set on fire in the St. Louis area, the seventh such church to be set ablaze in eleven days, according to CNN.

The fires each appear to be following the same pattern: while the congregation is away, an exterior door is doused in accelerant and then set ablaze.

"We believe that this fire-setting activity is meant to send a message," the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the St. Louis Police Department said in a joint statement.

"If you have observed anyone who has recently expressed anger or frustration with our religious community or with these particular churches, we ask that you contact us."

Police in St. Louis have not yet found any suspects or a clear motive, but are continuing to investigate the relationship between the fires.

"While no racial motive has yet been established," said the Anti-Defamation League in a statement, "the fear and intimidation in the African-American community is substantial and must be validated."

David Triggs, the pastor of New Life Missionary Baptist Church, told The Washington Post that despite "speculation that this is a white man coming against black churches ... we don’t know that." Pastor Triggs's New Life was the fifth church to be burned during this string of arson attacks.

"It could be a black man coming against black churches," he said. "We don’t know if there’s any race barrier to this; but we know it is a sin issue and it has to be addressed as such — through prayer."

The church community has collectively responded to these arsons by banding together and responding with love.

"If you burn one, you're burning all of us," said Pastor Sammie Jones from Mount Zion Baptist Church to local news outlet KSDK-TV.

But some pastors have expressed frustration that other St. Louis-area churches haven't responded visibly to these attacks.

"People should be standing up and saying, 'Hey I’m with you,' " Rev. Rodrick Burton, of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, told the Washington Post. "I’ve been surprised at the apathetic response. To me, it’s very telling, very disappointing."

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