Buddy Cobb, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church five miles northeast of Zephyr, extended an invitation: "Come by on Sunday and be with us."

It's not unusual for a pastor to invite someone to his church. It might be a little extra special considering the church's circumstance over the past 5 months: an arson fire claimed the church building, and a second structure used for Sunday school and other purposes, early on the morning of July 15.

Using funds from insurance and donations, the congregation has put up a 3,000-square-foot metal building. There is work to be done on the interior including putting in heat and electricity, but the congregation is meeting in the building on Sunday mornings.

"In February or March we'll be ready to dedicate it," the 72-year-old Cobb said.

Twenty-five to 30 people attend Sunday services, Cobb said.

The congregation is excited at seeing the progress with the new building, Cobb said. "The Lord's blessing in every way," he said.

The arson has not been solved. The fire that destroyed the church was one of several fires that occurred beginning around 2 a.m. the morning of July 15. The other fires were grass fires in the northern, eastern and southeastern portions of the county and are considered suspicious.

"Of course the investigation is still open," Sheriff Bobby Grubbs said of the church fire. He said he urges anyone with information to contact his office or Crime Stoppers.

Evidence analyzed at a fire lab indicated "an accelerant was used on different locations around the church," Grubbs said. He declined to elaborate.

The fire apparently did little to slow down the church. The Sunday after the fire, the congregation used borrowed chairs and had church in the open-air tabernacle on the church property. The church also went on to have Vacation Bible School, which was already in the works when the fire occurred.