In a heartbreaking incident, the historic Goodwill Baptist Church in the South Austin Bouldin Creek neighborhood suffered damage in what appears to be a possible arson attack. The incident took place on the evening of March 8 and has left the community in shock and disbelief.
According to the Austin Fire Department, they received a call around 11:30 p.m. reporting smoke coming from the church. Firefighters arrived at the scene shortly after and were able to extinguish the fire, but not before it caused significant damage to the building. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries.
The six years pastor of the church, Kelvin Austin, in a statement explained that he assumed the church would have burned out completely before he would get aid. He said; “My first thought was that by the time we got there, the church was going to be totally gone and burned to the ground,” He appreciated the firefighters who had already put out the fire by the time he got to the premises with his wife.
Austin went on to recall the historic significance of the church in the environment. “When the freedmen came out of the fields, they set up that community,” he said. “And the church has been a standing icon in the community for a number of years.” “For the most part, I’m grateful that things have worked out as well as they have,” he said. “No one was injured, which is the biggest concern that we had.” He said.
The Austin Police Department estimated the fire damages caused to be $150,000 in structural damage and $50,000 in damages to its contents. Pastor Kelvin Austin said the church has insurance and that he would meet with the company to know the next move.
The Goodwill Baptist Church is a beloved institution in the community, known for its rich history and cultural significance. The church was founded in 1903, and has served as a spiritual home for generations of African American families in South Austin. It has also been a gathering place for civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered a speech at the church in 1960.
The Austin Police Department is investigating the incident as a possible arson, but no suspects have been identified at this time. The motive behind the attack is unknown, but the possibility of arson cannot be ruled out.