NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - A local church, forced to close after an arson, is now back open.
Royster Memorial Presbyterian Church celebrated that milestone with Sunday's services. The pastor tells WAVY.com the restoration process has been a humbling experience.
"The beautiful restoration is one of the good things that has come out of all of this," said Pastor John Monroe.
Monroe says the new walls and floors are a blessing that came from a horrible fire back in May. Officials believe the fire was set on purpose. Monroe remembers the damage was overwhelming, at first glance.
"I literally could not see the wall on the other side of the room because the smoke was so thick," said Monroe. "All the walls in the sanctuary were black and covered with soot, so it was really a mess."
The fire started in the church's kitchen, where members usually host the Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team once a year.
"This year we weren't able to do that because we didn't have a fellowship hall or a kitchen," said Monroe.
The kitchen now looks better than it did before. It is still waiting for an inspection, and then it will be ready for community meals.
Until then, church members are enjoying the updated sanctuary. At the Sunday service, Pastor Monroe shared a special message about forgiveness.
"Let's learn from our past but not dwell on it," he said. "Let's press on ahead and look for ways we can reach out in our community and carry out the mission God has given us."
Police have not made any arrests for the church arson.
Monroe says he forgives and hopes the suspect finds a new purpose in life.
Charges have been made in a domestic abuse investigation involving a 74-year-old woman in Elizabeth City.
Witnesses tell WAVY.com the attack of a shopper was the cause of a heavy police presence at the Ross department store at Military Circle in Norfolk Wednesday night.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.