Oldest church in Arizona goes up in flames; 3 arrested for arson

SACATON, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- The small town of Sacaton on the Gila River Indian Community has lost a historic building to arson.

The C.H. Cook Memorial Church is the oldest Presbyterian church in the state, and it went up in flames last Monday. Now, the community is trying to figure out what comes next.

The church was built in 1918, and it was located at Church Street and Pima. It was a historical pillar of the community, but now, three people are being charged with burning it down.

Reverand Brad Munroe, the Presbyterian Pastor for the State of Arizona, watched as the church went up in flames.

"Answering all the questions of why and how and what for, that's the hard work," said Rev. Munroe.

Officials with the Gila River Police Department say three people have been questioned and arrested for arson. Their motives are not known, but Rev. Munroe says the historic C. H. Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church was a pillar in the community, having been built over one hundred years ago. The loss of the church is not only sad for worshipers but everyone in the small town.

"It wasn't just Presbyterians gathered in the courtyard, watching the first responders put out the fire," said Rev. Munroe. "It was members of the community. Members of the community would come by and say, 'hey, I remember when I was 12 and I worshiped there. I remember doing Bible in the basement.'"

As of now, it's still not safe to enter the burnt-out remains of the church to see if anything is salvageable. Rev. Munroe said they did have long-term goals to bring the church back to its former glory. Now, however, they're not so sure what they're next steps will be, as the community comes together.