Hate Crime Possibly to Blame for Okay Church Destroyed In Fire

    It was a barking dog that alerted a neighbor that the Okay United Methodist Church was on fire. That neighbor is the one who called 911.

    The nearly 100 year old church building is in ruins. The pastor, here only 3 months, when she got the phone call about the fire.There was also racist graffiti that the FBI is investigating as a hate crime.

    "My congregation they were gathered over in this area and they were praying, says Stephanie Crogan, the pastor of 30 to 40 member congregation.

    The steeple. the pews, books and a brand new piano...gone.

    "It's hard to look at it," says Crogan.

    Next door, "the only thing that alerted me was my dog," says Cody Thompson who sounded the alarm.

    "The heat was so extreme, we had people using both faucets to try to keep my grandmother's car from burning up that's how bad it was," says Thompson.

    The cause appears to be arson. A fire intentionally set at a church already hit by vandals.

    Last Sunday our windows were broke, our stained glass windows.

    Then, another incident.

    "It was pretty vulgar stuff." That from Captain Jake Kelley who is investigating the scene and from the Wagoner County Sheriff's office.

    Graffiti. Similar to another incident of vandalism at the high school a couple of weeks ago. Law enforcement saying there are strong similarities to what the community has already suspected.

    "It's just a shame that whoever did that is still just walking around," says Thompson.

    At the United Methodist Church and among the charred furnishings, there's still room for forgiveness.

    "I forgive you. You must be a hurting individual," says the pastor.

    The worst of times can also bring out the best in humanity.

    "My phone has rang off the hook. Between the e-mails the phone calls, strangers pulling up, the community, the support has been overwhelming."

    Sunday services were held at the Senior Citizens Center in Okay. But next Sunday they plan to move to this outdoor area near the church.

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