North Memphis church pastor says he’s praying for whoever set fire to building


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A North Memphis house of worship was hit by fire after what appears to be a burglary attempt Saturday afternoon.

No one has been charged for setting multiple fires and for leaving thousands of dollars in damage behind at Smothers Chapel CME on North Claybrook.

Clyde Carter was at his mother’s house Saturday on North Claybrook when a neighbor brought startling news to their front door.

“Knocked on the door and ask if we knew that the church was on fire,” he said.

Carter says less than 75 feet away he could see trouble at historic Smothers Chapel CME Church.

“We could see smoke coming from the rooftop and out of the sides of the windows,” Carter said.

He rushed to get his uncle, who’s the janitor. They tried to get the key to unlock it, but there was too much smoke, he said.

According to the fire department multiple fires were set, leaving upwards of $7,000 in damage.

“We definitely have no understanding as to why someone would desire to burn the church, even after breaking into it,” said Pastor Jimmie Lee McMorris Jr. 

McMorris said it doesn’t appear anything was stolen, but the damage estimate could go much higher. There is structural damage to some of the pews in the sanctuary and there is damage in the floor of the sanctuary, he said.

McMorris says he’s praying for church members and for whoever desecrated this house of worship. No one was injured.

If you know who’s responsible you’re urged to call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH or the state arson hotline at 1-800-762-3017.

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