Arsonist Unsuccessful in Setting Church on Fire; Bible, Jesus Painting Helped

A church was “divinely spared” from an arsonist’s attempts at burning the more than 100-year-old building, a pastor shared.

Castle Rock officer Branden McNew told The Daily News that the suspect, 21-year-old Chase Daniel Alderman, had done everything he could to set the United Methodist Church on fire for reasons undetermined early Sunday morning.

He set fire to a tablecloth, artificial flowers, cardboard boxes and the pastor’s desk, all to no avail.

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One fire burned until it reached an old Bible, leaving the book untouched, while an old framed picture of Jesus put out another fire.

“We have witnessed a miracle,” Linda Bauska, chairwoman of the church’s outreach team, told The Daily News.

Bauska first discovered the fire while setting up for a special Veterans Day church service. She noticed a burned bouquet of flowers, a broken window, and other remnants of a fire.

“What kind of person comes into the house of the Lord and starts lighting fires all over the whole church?” the Castle Rock native wondered. “We just prayed for [Alderman].”

“I think everyone believes that the situation could have been much worse, and God was with us. If I hadn’t believed in God before Sunday morning, I would believe in God now,” Pastor Vonda McFadden also shared with the publication.

Though the church’s sanctuary remained unscathed, others areas of the church retained smoke damage.

McFadden believed that the suspect drank grape juice and ate the Communion bread before setting the place on fire.
“It’s just stuff,” the pastor also commented. “And it’s a building. It’s an important building because it’s where we worship. But the church is really the people. We’re going to fix it. We’ve already begun. It will be fine.”

Church services went on as scheduled, despite the smell of smoke. McFadden told her congregation that morning that they should forgive because they were God’s people.

Alderman is currently being held in the Cowlitz County Jail for second-degree arson and burglary. His bail is set at $25,000.

Officer McNew revealed that the suspect showed no signs of mental illness and his motive remained unclear.

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