Hateful vandalism and fire destroy church

A furious fire destroyed the Glory of Christ Church on Wednesday, December 9. Congregants were devastated to discover disturbing and hateful messages scrawled inside. Photo by Robert Benimoff

A shocked Jeff Padilla, youth leader at the Glory of Christ Church, referred to hateful graffiti and satanic symbols found inside his charred Bronx house of worship last week as “unbelievable.”

On Wednesday, December 9, more than 100 firefighters worked to extinguish an early morning, two-alarm fire at 2137 Ellis Avenue, a former synagogue. The Fire Department declared the blaze under control at 5:12 a.m., minutes before parishioners arrived for morning prayers. Three firefighters sustained minor injuries, the Fire Department reported.

Pastor Raymond Talavera and Glory of Christ members were devastated to find vile messages spray-painted inside the two-story building. One warned, “Get off our block.” Others included anti-Jewish and anti-Christian statements, upside-down crosses, gang-related statements and a pentagram enclosed by “666,” a number some associate with the Antichrist.

“We have no idea who did this,” Talavera said. “Nobody has ever expressed animosity against us. We're at a complete loss. It was a hateful thing.”

The fire remains under investigation by the Fire Department and may or may not have been a “hate crime.” The Police Department hadn’t responded to requests for comment as of press time.

Glory of Christ is a 150-member, non-denominational congregation. Members found church seats and other loose items piled to create a bonfire, Padilla said.

“Most of the equipment wasn’t salvaged,” Padilla said. “Everything was basically consumed by the flames. Everything looked like the wax when a candle has burned. What’s incredible is that our altar and pulpit were not touched by the flames.”

Every other Saturday, the church opens its soup kitchen to the community, thanks to a donation from the late Yankees broadcaster Bobby Murcer. It also handed out clothes. Glory of Christ has held block parties and lent the building to other churches.

“Our services were something the community could depend on,” Padilla said. “We always tried to help out anyone who needed it.”

For now, Glory of Christ will hold services at 6 p.m. on Sundays at Fourth Presbyterian Church, at 2072 Newbold Avenue. The congregation has established a fund to pay for the building’s restoration.

“We will not be permanently relocating,” Padilla said. “Our goal is to stay where we are. We’ve found out that the structural integrity of the building is intact. As soon as the insurance company and adjusters [are done], we can begin to rebuild.”

To help or obtain further information, visit http://goc.thischurch.org/.

Reach reporter Amanda Marinaccio at 718 742-3394 or amarinaccio@cnglocal.com

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