January 14th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Black church set ablaze on night of Obama's election reopens

By Bob Crowley, CNN

Springfield, Massachusetts (CNN) - The phone rang at 3:00 am on Wednesday, November 5, 2008, hours after Barack Obama had been elected president. Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr. assumed this was his 6:00 a.m. wake-up call.

Robinson, the pastor at the Macedonia Church of God in Christ here, asked his brother Andrew to phone him so he wouldn’t oversleep. He told his brother just to let the phone ring a little while, as he planned to just get up and not answer.

So Robinson was a little annoyed when he heard the ringer again.

Not fully awake, he had trouble processing the voice on the receiver: “They are burning our church to the ground.”

Robinson drove to the site to watch his brand new church building, about 80% complete since construction had begun in 2007, disappear into a fire.

“A new facility that we had dreamed about had been snatched from us,” he remembers thinking.

Robinson says it didn’t take long for authorities to tell him the fire was an arson that had targeted the predominantly African American congregation in response to the election of the first black president.

Macedonia Church of God in Christ had been founded by Robinson’s father in 1950. The pastor says he never doubted how he would respond. Robinson would rebuild.

“This site,” he says, “would not become a monument to hatred and violence.”

There would be arrests, trials and prison sentences for each of the three men convicted in the arson.

The church had insurance, but only enough to cover the loans they had for construction of the lost facility. To re-build, Robinson needed to raise nearly $1.8 million, relying on loans, donations and faith.

“It would have been easy to run the white flag up the pole,” says Robinson, who turns 75 this year, “but that was not God’s purpose for us.”

His prayers were answered last September, less than three years after the fire, when the Macedonia First Church of God in Christ opened the doors to its new worship facility, built on the same site as the previous building.

It has a main sanctuary for Sunday services, meeting rooms, a function hall, and offices. Congregants like Robert Rivera feel like they’ve come home: ”It’s just a testament to our faith and how God has proven himself through our faith.”

Says Robinson: “They’re experiencing confirmation that God did not abandon us in a very dark hour.”

There is still work to be done on the new facility. The church grounds are not finished and the parking lot needs extra paving, but Robinson is hopeful that more funds will come. He has become accustomed to overcoming obstacles.

“We would be delayed,” he says, “but we would not be denied.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church

soundoff (362 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes a lot of lives

    January 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts or goblins

      You appear to be weakening in your belief in the power of prayer...

      Why doesn't prayer change everyone's lives, or even all of those that pray?

      January 16, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Merde

      A lot? Do we all get turned into pillars of salt? Did we draw lots without knowing? So it's all just gambing after all isn't it. shame on you.

      January 17, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes lives a lot

      January 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  2. Chris

    This article is about an entire congregations church being burned down to the ground by racism and then being rebuilt with faith. It's not about whether God exist or doesn't or whether prayer works or doesn't...geez some folks are really amazingly stupid and prejudice. I'd like to help a few of you dipsticks out though. Think of prayer like thinking positively. If you affirm something in your mind and then go out to work on bringing it to fruition then that is "positive thinking" for the positive result you desired. So folk like to associate that chain of events to their faith and God. Personally I look at it as cause and effect, not rocket science or mythical beings. If you've ever heard of Norman Vincent Peale then you'll know what I'm talking about. Here's a quote that might make some understand better; "War is first fought in the mind, before it ever reaches the battle field!" Cause and effect for positive or negative work both ways for many people. Now please get a life and read a book and gets some damn culture from somewhere, even if you have to steal it...please!

    January 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Merde

      You are really stupid.

      January 17, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  3. tea party

    "BLACK and CHURCH" racism and relgion go hand and hand....

    January 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  4. John


    January 16, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • ...

      TROLL Alert – don't bother watching this garbage, click the report abuse link to get rid of this stupid TROLL!

      January 17, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  5. Bo

    Yes, to believe in God is ridiculous for the unbeliever, it’s true, God does not exist for them, even the Bible will support that, and yes, prayer is ridiculous too–that is for the unbeliever; because an unbeliever just doesn’t know how or where to see or hear an answer to prayer. For them, an answer to prayer is just a fluke, for them, they believe that anything that happens out of the ordinary is just a fluke (they believe?–and they say they have no belief? Oh well–.) For them it would have happened anyway: like the person who had cancer and there was an intercessory prayer offered up and the cancer disappeared, to the unbeliever it was just a fluke because you can’t give credit to something, which to them, doesn’t exist. Indeed, it’s the truth, the unbeliever WILL go down in a Godless grave. Un-believers are right, for them there will be no afterlife. Of course they don’t have any of the joys of a relationship with God, how can they, because for them, God doesn’t exist, and it is so much fun to make fun of believers, I mean, they just roll with laughter. To have the benefits offered by God it takes a belief in God, there is no other way to enjoy them. Why would an atheist want to believe in God, because if they did, they would have to change their lifestyle and they don’t want to do that–that would take away what they consider, their freedom to do anything they choose not to mention the fun they get out of ridiculing believers. (An atheist considers it a “bondage" to do the will of God.) They, unlike Moses, would rather enjoy a season of sin than accept the hardship of a righteous life and enjoy the blessings of an eternal life. Atheists are right; “There is no God"–at least not for them.
    Oops! I’m sorry, I forgot, they do have a god–, they are a god unto themselves.

    January 16, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • Dave Duffey


      January 16, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Snow

      "it’s the truth"?

      How do you know that?

      January 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    I have a personal relationship with God.

    I know you evil atheists think that if there were a God, he would be so far beyond us that it would make about as much sense as me having a presonal relationship with a bacteria microbe, but the truth is you can have a really good relationship with a bacteria microbe. I named mine Jesus, in honor of Jesus. Jesus prays to me, and I respond in a random, senseless way so that Jesus is never sure if I exist or not. I wait around with nothing better to do than be Jesus' magical friend, and I will punish those bacteria who do not believe in me in my lake of Clorox, and there will be much bateria wailing and gnashing of teeth, I tell you. Or I think anyway.

    Does anyone here know if bacteria have teeth to gnash? I might know inportant things like that if I spent more time reading and learning and less time praying and pretending to read the Bible, which most of us Christians only pretend to do, but the truth is that we don't like to read.

    What was I talking about? I think it had something to do with prayer. I keep praying for a better brain, but Jesus is pretty slow on his deliveries.

    January 16, 2012 at 3:24 am |
    • just sayin

      It would seem that there is a very sad, lonely person out there that feels the need to steal a handle on an anonymous blog

      January 16, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • Prayer Cures Cancer And Ends Birth Defects

      Can I have one of you many many handles, Inconvenient Marky Changes Prayer Swain?

      January 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • twang

      NUT CASE

      January 16, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  7. Prayer Gives You Brain-AIDS

    It gives you the brain-AIDS.......

    January 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Answer

      Rightly so.

      They just want it – no matter what. That's religion for ya.

      January 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  8. SeattleAl

    OK, so how do they know this arson was in response to Obama election? Churches are often subject to arson and it usually has nothing to do with race or politics.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Read the article. That's what the arsonists said.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Destroying churches is ALWAYS about Race and Politics.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:31 am |
    • mstrina

      I'm sorry I usually don't comment on these things because it tends to go back and forth but I happen to be a member of this church that got burned down when Obama got elected and unfortunately it was because of that that it did happen. It was proven in court and its a shame that people in this world are still like that but all is well is well because our faith in God is stronger and we hold no grudges against the three gentlemen that did this we forgave them and we pray for them daily.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Chakib

      Fiona Posted on This is probably a weird place to reonspd, but I wanted to thank you for your recommendation of Pan's Labyrinth, and I didn't know where else to put it. It really is one of the best movies I've ever seen, and I might not have even noticed it if not for Stephen King's recommendation into the back of Entertainment Weekly, and yours here at Alert Nerd.Also? I feel your pain on the too-many-nerd-toys thing. I'm trying to resist buying that recently released (or at least, recently noticed by me) diecast Galactica figurine, but it's not working. Being a nerd is freaking expensive!

      August 1, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  9. Atheism is far more healthy for all humans than the delusions of religion

    Only morons ignore the obvious fact that prayer is totally ineffective (and there are a hell of a lot of morons out there). They instead make grandiose, deluded claims that are clearly untrue. Not a single one of the OP's claims can be supported in any way with evidence, yet on and on she posts her blithering idiocy.

    January 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer unlocks the mysteries of life
      Prayer advances mankind in science and medicine
      Prayer changes lives

      January 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Prayer is a waste of time. There is nothing there. No gods anywhere. No proof ever throughout history.

      You can't even change a single atom with prayer. There are so many ways a "god" could communicate with us yet there is nothing. Nothing at all. Anywhere. Ever. Because there is no god. That's why there's no proof. You got suckered in sucker.

      January 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Thank you sir may I have another!

      January 15, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Religion is not healthy for people who got burned alive for heresy

      Prayer and meditation are one in the same. Whatever you can accomplish through meditation, you can accomplish through prayer, but nothing more.

      January 16, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer draws close to the thoughts of God
    Prayer builds character
    Prayer lights the pathway to God in the troubles of life
    Prayer brings understanding
    Prayer brings healing
    Prayer changes things

    January 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Prayer makes you think you did something real instead of imaginary.

      Prayer closes the mind.

      January 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer draws you close to the hearty of God
      Prayer prepares the soul for forever
      Prayer changes lives

      January 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Prayer makes you remember you forgot to do something because you were so hung up on praying.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Meet God, pray with God for a few weeks and get back to us with your opinion.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Ironicus

      I was more devout than you yet I have yet to see any proof of your "god's" existence anywhere throughout the universe.

      I prayed for the total truth and discovered the whole thing is bullshlt.

      Prayers make you think you did something real instead of imaginary. Your "god" only exists in your fantasies.
      You imagine fantasy help and find that you feel better. This is not proof of a god but proof you are delusional.
      There are no gods. All you have is inside your head. Doesn't that tell you anything? You are so clueless.

      January 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Chad

      @Ironicus "There are no gods. All you have is inside your head. Doesn't that tell you anything? You are so clueless."
      =>Just out of curiosity, why do you spend time on this blog? Just to call people names?

      January 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why don't you answer the same question, Chad? While you're at it, why not answer this one? Why do you read Ironicus's posts at all?

      January 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, yeah, and this: ====> is stupid, Chad.

      January 15, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Ironicus

      I come here to give you shlt, Chad. Don't you like it? I'm shocked!

      January 15, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Chad

      @Ironicus "I come here to give you shlt, Chad. Don't you like it? I'm shocked!"

      =>right, exactly. You come here to yell at people because you're extremely angry. Why are you angry?

      I know nothing of your personal situation, but I have met many atheists who were once believers, some great tragedy struck them and they feel that God didn't act. So now they have resolved to hate God any anyone who believes in Him.. This blog is a way to vent that anger.

      I come here to combat lies with truth, all of my posts are basically "no, your as sertion is incorrect, this is why and present data"

      January 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • θετικός

      Prayer advocate-Great posts!!!

      January 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • trolling is a violation of the geneva convention

      die of conflagration of the scalp

      January 15, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Ironicus

      No, Chad, you dipshlt, I didn't come here to give anyone else shlt but you. You are the sole reason I am here posting this.
      You think I'm angry at your fake "god" but that would be like hating Santa Claus.
      You're a tone-troll, Chad. All you can do is whine and pout and say "you're being a meanie!" yet you don't give facts, you lie constantly, and you don't have any "god" backing you up on anything you say.
      In short, you are a loser. Not totally your fault, so I find it hard to hate you for your mental disability.
      I'm just having fun giving you shlt. That's all. I give other people different shlt. This is yours.

      January 15, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Chad

      Right, so why are you so angry?
      Why do you come on here to vent?
      What event made you an atheist?

      January 15, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Ironicus

      I see you're going down the list of anti-atheist trolls. I've seen that list.
      You're just a lame idiot who can't come up with anything on his own.
      Just a parrot. Not worth talking to but I was bored.
      You are a boring troll. Too boring. When you have an original argument come see me.

      January 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Now I get it. Chad's Mighty Mouse! "Here I come to save the day!"


      January 15, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      ironicus You were never devout, you never have known God you have been deceived your whole life and are wasting what little you have

      January 16, 2012 at 4:58 am |
    • Ironicus

      You only say that because you are scared of the truth. I was going to be a pastor. I used confirmation bias to view everything and was deceived by my "faith" into thinking random things were "God's" messages to me. I had a totally unshakable faith.

      But then I wanted to make sure I was getting everything correct according to what the Bible said and started reading it from cover to cover, seeking "hidden meanings" and special insights and great stuff like that. I wanted to do the best job I could.
      That was the beginning of the end right there.
      Yes, I was deceived my whole life by religion. I am wasting only a little of what I have left in talking to idiots who refuse to listen to reason. That's okay. I have fun and get to shove your bullshlt right back in your face. Very satisfying at times. O yes.

      January 16, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Thank you sir may I have another!!

      January 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Bottom line ironicus you never knew God.

      January 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Chad

      @Ironicus " You only say that because you are scared of the truth. I was going to be a pastor.... But then I wanted to make sure I was getting everything correct according to what the Bible said and started reading it from cover to cover,"

      =>you were going to be a pastor, by you had never read the bible? How does that work?

      January 16, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      AITruth.. It is so easy to say statements with out any proof The only inconvenient truth you have shown is the lack of evidence of your god. There cannot be any evidence of course.. and you know why.

      January 18, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  11. joesmo

    I knew most people where dumb, but reading these comments i think i gave them too much credit. the words "super dumb" come to mind.

    January 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  12. Stormfront

    Why couldn't they wait until the n-i-g-g-e-r-s were in there, lock them in, and THEN set it on fire?

    January 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Sunnylovetts

      coward, die.

      January 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Stormfront


      Why am I a coward? If you're not black, and you're defending them, you're a n-i-g-g-e-r loving race traitor.

      January 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Ironicus

      I find it hard to believe anyone really talks like this. I'm thinking it's a poe-troll.

      January 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Stormfront


      What's a poe-troll? Anyway, if you want to see the TRUTH about reality, come to Stormfront and be confronted with your hatred of whites and white culture.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Anyone who talks like this and who has never heard of a poe-troll is definitely a poe-troll pretending to be a poe.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Stormfront

      @Ironicus: I've still never heard of a "poe-troll" or a "poe" for that matter? I'm getting highly curious though.

      January 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Jim


      January 15, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Well, it's not impossible that you are new to the internet or have been leading a sheltered life....
      So where is this "stormfront" you speak of ?
      A white-supremacist website?
      No thanks, I'd rather have a shlt sandwich or something.
      People like you deserve serious shlt. Just remember that you brought it on yourself when it happens to you.

      January 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Stormfront


      I looked up a poe. It was funny. Anyway, "supremecist" is what the Jews and their government lackeys want you to believe.

      Nationalist is what we are. White Nationalist. We want our own white nation. Countries around the world threw fits so the blacks could have their African nations back. They have them, and they're allowed to be predominately black. Israel is all Jew. The middle east is all Arab. The only ones NOT permitted countries of our own are whites. Our culture is vanishing, and we're the ones who build civilizations. Our race is vanishing, andi t's the most beautiful in the world. That's why Stormfront exists. To fight for the only ones nobody wants to fight for- the white race.

      January 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  13. Pest

    The only good church is a burned church.

    January 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Brek

      It would actually make more sense to disassemble it and recycle the materials, but I know how you feel.

      January 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • John

      Typical atheist response… it’s funny how atheist blame the world’s problems on religion, when it’s hate-filled comments like these, that show how the atheist are leading the moral decline of the world. Atheist bring nothing good to society… unfortunately they don’t have philosophical minds they can’t see the big picture… you simply put a monkey in lab coat on TV, call them a scientist, and an atheist will believe anything they say.

      January 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Justin

      So much for "live and let live"

      January 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.