VALE, N.C. -- The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate a church fire they say was intentionally set.
Crews were called out around 4 a.m. Monday.
The pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Vale says he’s worried the fire was intentionally set because there was vandalism found behind the church.
No one was hurt. Someone painted "anti-gay hate group" on the church itself and the sidewalk.
Church members, however, emphatically described their services as welcoming.
They're not sure why Providence Baptist may have been a target and believe it could be a case of mistaken identity.
"We have a good fellowship here and you know we're like a family,” said church member Earl Fulbright. “Almost just like a family. And when you see something like this happen and you know it hurts."
Pastor Ernie Richards and parishioners said Providence Baptist has been mistaken for another area church in the past with a similar name. He said that church has made statements which have caused threatening calls to Providence Baptist.
"And evidently someone had got the names mixed up and they called me,” said Richards. “Had a lot of bad things to say about the hate speech that was going on."
Richards believes it may have now escalated from threatening calls to his sanctuary being destroyed.
The pastor said Providence Baptist Church will still hold services and programs as scheduled in its auxiliary building.
The ATF is helping with the investigation.