They started by protesting.
Then they began to topple public statues and desecrate historic landmarks.
And now, it seems these extremists are ready to come for our churches.
Investigators think that liberal protestors may be tied to the recent fire of a California church.
The San Gabriel Mission, located in San Gabriel, California, was nearly destroyed in a blaze that raged beyond the control of local firefighters and emergency responders.
The church’s roof collapsed and much of the interior structure of the building was ruined.
“The roof is completely gone,” reported Fire Captain Paul Negrete, who was one of the first on the scene.
“The fire traversed the wood rapidly. The interior is pretty much destroyed up into the altar area.”
At the time of the fire, the San Gabriel Mission was undergoing renovations as the congregation prepared to celebrate its 250th anniversary.
Now, the church’s leaders and congregation are left stunned and unable to process what appears to be a deliberate attack.
As of now, it’s unclear who is responsible for the fire, but the congregation—and the fire department—have a few ideas.
“One of the factors investigators are taking into account [in this case] is the recent vandalism [in the area],” said Negrete.
The church has been at the center of a BLM-fueled controversy about its patron saint, St. Junipero Serra.
Serra, a Spanish priest, founded a string of missions across the state of California and was largely responsible for converting many of the local indigenous people to Catholicism and Christianity.
He was a brave worker for the kingdom of God, but today, he’s accused of being “oppressive” and “racist” for his work among the indigenous peoples of California.
According to Negrete, BLM protestors and other liberal groups have toppled several “statues of [St. Serra]” across California and have recently focused their efforts on “the Los Angeles region” surrounding San Gabriel Mission.
In fact, the church had already moved its own statue of St. Serra from the public church entrance “to a more appropriate location, out of public view.”
But it seems that didn’t stop the protestors.
Negrete and others will continue to investigate the fire, but their work can’t replace the feeling of safety and security the congregation has now lost.
“I was baptized here, I had my first communion here…I was getting ready to get married here next year so this hurts,” said Selena Quezada, a regular attendee at San Gabriel.
“It’s just really sad to see such a historic place burned down because this place means a lot to us.”
Other members of the community expressed disbelief at the idea that the church might have been a target of activist violence.
“People greeted us with open arms [when we came],” said Altagracia Diaz Gamboa, who was married in the church as a young woman.
“It’s always been like this. So much love is in there. The disaster is so tragic.”
Thankfully, the church’s altar and several important historical artifacts survived the fire thanks to the proactive work of firefighters.
“During the initial stages of the fire attack, firefighters were able to remove historical artifacts and some artwork from the path of the blaze,” said Fire Chief Steven Wallace.
“Once the heavy fire in the roof was knocked down, firefighters re-entered the old church and made a valiant stand to cut off the horizontal spread of the fire near the altar area, sparing items that date back to the late 1700s.”
The church expressed their gratitude for the fire department’s efforts and the ensuing outreach from the community.
“We are so grateful and moved by the tremendous show of support from our Mission community during this tragic time. We thank the amazing efforts of our San Gabriel fire department and all the supporting cities that assisted in the fire.”
“Their unwavering efforts to stop the fire saved our altar. Thank you to our Mission family that came to cry and pray alongside us yesterday…you have given us renewed and rekindled strength to rebuild and come back to celebrate our restoration.”
Prior to the fire, the church had survived two earthquakes, regional upheaval, and two centuries.
Now, its future is uncertain, but the leadership intends to rebuild what they can and continue reaching out to surrounding communities.
Please pray for the congregation of San Gabriel Mission! May their grace and forgiveness be an effective witness to those who try to stand against God’s work.