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Arrest after Christchurch church fire

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/05/2016

A Christchurch church community will hold services in a building that survived a fire and is extending forgiveness to the alleged arsonist.

St Margaret's Presbyterian Church in Bishopdale was well ablaze when firefighters arrived at 5.45am on Sunday.

"Sadly St Margaret's buildings were gutted by fire this morning. Office building will be usable. A challenging time for us all," the church posted on its Facebook page.

The church's minister, Reverend Dr Andrew Nicol, said there was a "really good feeling" when members of the congregation met in a nearby building on Sunday afternoon.

"We just made it warm and had a cup of tea.

"We had a service this afternoon where we got together and sang a few songs and supported one another and let people know there would be continuity. We're in good spirits," he told NZ Newswire.

Future services will be held in the surviving office building once power and water are restored to it, he said.

Police say they've arrested a man in his 30s who will appear in Christchurch District Court on Monday and they're not looking for anyone else.

Rev Nicol said it was good to have a result.

"Our thoughts as a community go to his family as well. Whilst we have been hurt by what has happened, we want to extend a sense of Christian forgiveness and grace to those who are affected by his actions as well, including him," he said.

He didn't want to comment on reports the church did not have fire alarms or sprinklers.

St Margaret's was founded in 1964 when the suburb of Bishopdale was developed and its buildings are well-used by a wide range of community groups. Its buildings survived the Christchurch earthquakes.

The fire, which was centred in the chapel and storage areas of the building, was contained by 7am and fire teams worked to remove some of the roofing.

No one was injured.

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