Church worships in parking lot after fire

Parishioners of a North Miami church destroyed in a Fourth of July fire held services in a parking lot on Sunday — within view of their destroyed house of worship.

“These people... they understand the building fell down but the church did not fall down,” said Rev. James Pasteurin of the Eglise Evangelique des Pelerins, or Pilgrim Evangelical Church at 1293 NW 119th St.

The services came off thanks to the kindness of strangers. A nearby church donated the folding chairs for the service and a local businessman donated the sound system.

“My wife and I saw the story and we had to help,” said Guillermo Martinez of Thunder Sound Services, which provided the microphones and loudspeakers.

Downcast parishioners arrived in their Sunday best to sit under a tent and on rows of folding chairs. The church, which has 150 members, did not have insurance, and Pasteurin said it has no money to rebuild.

The fire will also affect the lives of 150 students in Haiti whose education the church was funding. The church was to have celebrated its 19th anniversary this month.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen...” Pasteurin said. “I know that God will make a way.”

The trouble began on the Fourth of July.

Neighbors who live near the church told Pasteurin they saw several kids playing with fireworks on the church’s roof before the building erupted in flames Wednesday evening.

“Eyewitnesses told me there were six young men, some of them were on the roof, some of them were on the floor, and after the fire started they all took off running,” Pasteurin said.

The youths have not been located and no arrests have been made.

“We are still waiting to hear what the investigation has come up with,” Pasteurin said.

The building used by the church was a North Miami landmark.

In the 1950s, it was a well-known bar called the Bottle Cap Inn. Over the years it has been the home of other businesses, including a pizza parlor.