A former synagogue that was turned into a church on Ellis Avenue in the Parkchester section of Bronx was torched by assailants who smeared Satanic graffiti on its walls.
”We have no idea who did this,” said the Rev. Raymond Talavera, pastor of the 150-member nondenominational Glory of Christ Church.
Only the hard plastic pulpit survived, the pastor said.
More than 100 firefighters were called to the scene at about 4 a.m., just before morning prayers at 5:30 a.m. By then, the flames in the two-story building were under control, according to fire department officials. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.
Words scrawled in big black letters on a wall by the church entrance – ”GET OFF OUR BLOCK” – offered no clue as to who was responsible for the fiery attack, said Talavera, speaking on his cell phone outside the building.
After stealing $300 from the offering box, ”they took the church chairs and made a bonfire with them,” he said.
The arsonists painted upside-down crosses and a pentagram – a five-point star surrounded by a ”666,” which the pastor said were meant to represent Satanic evil.
Elsewhere, they scrawled ”Crip Kill” – referring to the name of the street gang, the Crips – and ”We hate Jews and Christians.”
Heat from the flames melted audiovisual equipment, and stained-glass windows that once belonged to the synagogue were blown out, Talavera said.
The congregation had a clothing outreach and a soup kitchen set up with a donation from the late Yankees broadcaster Bobby Murcer. It also had prepared Christmas gifts for children in the Parkchester area, and medicines to send to Africa.
The pastor was mystified.
”Nobody has ever expressed animosity against us,” he said. ”We’re at a complete loss. It was a hateful thing.”