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Childcare center and preschool destroyed in church arson

A large portion of a Rochester church including its childcare center and preschool, is destroyed after someone set fire to it right after Easter.
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – A large portion of a Rochester church including its childcare center and preschool, is destroyed after someone set fire to it right after Easter.

“Everything that they had is a total loss. We’re not able to save anything that they had,” Peace United Church of Christ administrator Debby Adams said.

The Rochester Police Department have determined the fire at Peace United Church of Christ to be arson. The damages amount to more than $2.5 million.

“Just a range of emotions. Confusion, shock, anger,” the church’s council president John Kuth said.

After finally being able to gather in-person after COVID, the fire is another blow to the church.

“We just came off of COVID. We were ready to get going again and then the fire came along,” Pastor Paul Bauch said.

The preschool and entire north wing of the building is a complete loss, while the south end will need nearly everything replaced.

“Nobody was in the building so we’re thankful for that. Nobody got hurt. That’s the main thing. We can always rebuild the building,” Pastor Bauch said.

But not everything in the building can be replaced.

“In the hallway where the fire started, we had a whole wall of all of our past mission trips with all of our kids, ranging back to 15 years, and the kids had signed them, and they’re completely gone. There’s nothing left of those,” Adams said.

Despite their loss, the congregation continues to meet in their sanctuary to come together and heal.

“But we came back on the Sunday after the fire, it was like a new life. We are in the resurrection spirit, and truly just felt like this restoration was happening right away,” Pastor Bauch said.

Although construction is expected to take nearly a year, church members say they will continue to follow their mission inside and outside the church.

“So much of our ministry does not happen within these walls anyhow, but this is where we gather, we celebrate and we push people out to do the work that we do in this community,” Pastor Bauch said.

According to the Rochester Police Department, there are no suspects right now and the investigation is still ongoing Information can be shared anonymously through Crime Stoppers, at 1-800-222-TIPS or the Arson Hotline 1-800-723-2020. You can also contact RPD Investigator Todd Schwanke at 507-328-2894 or tschwanke@rochestermn.gov.

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