Church picks up pieces after arson

SAN DIEGO - A congregation held mass Sunday, days after the place they hold their church service in University Heights was set on fire.

An arsonist set fire to Alice Birney Elementary late Monday night destroying the Urban Church's meeting place and $50,000 worth of equipment, San Diego Fire and Rescue officials said.  

"My heart was just torn, both for our church realizing we're not going to have a place to meet," said Lead Pastor of Urban Church Ben Brinkman. "Who would do this to a school? Who would do this to a church?" Brinkman said.   

The school board let the Urban Church use it's auditorium Sunday morning and more than 160 members showed up.

About half of that money came out of Pastor Ben Brinkman's own pocket, but instead of dwelling on the loss, Brinkman turned his loss into his next sermon.

"What I experienced this week, many people are walking through in a different way," Brinkman said. "It looks different, maybe it’s a relational fire, maybe it’s a financial fire, maybe it’s an emotional fire."

It wasn't their normal service, but members said they got something special out of it.

"Any fire is not going to stop us.  We're sticking together and not giving up on hope," said Urban Church member Mary Alvarez.

Arson caused $600,000 worth of damage at a local school and destroyed a church.

Police have not released any details about the suspected arsonist.  Anyone with information about the fire has been asked to contact San Diego Fire and Rescue.