Two churches vandalized and burned in Bethesda this weekend

Two Bethesda churches were vandalized and set on fire over the weekend in incidents that authorities say are linked.

At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department responded to a call about a fire at the North Bethesda United Methodist Church at 10100 Old Georgetown Road. The main part of the church was untouched and damage was minimal, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the agency.

About 24 hours later, around 2 a.m. Sunday, the Fire and Rescue Department responded to a call about a fire at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish at 9601 Old Georgetown Road – less than a mile of North Bethesda United Methodist Church. That fire damaged several pews but was quickly extinguished, Piringer said, adding that investigators believe the fire was started intentionally.

The damage was sufficient to suspend activities in the main section of the church, and Sunday mass was moved to another part of the church, Piringer said.

Officials at the two churches did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

Authorities believe the two incidents are related and are continuing their investigation, Piringer said.

“They are certainly related by the similarities in terms of time of day and location,” he said. “There were multiple fires started or attempted to be started at both locations.”

Piringer said the two churches were also vandalized, but investigators are not “able to disclose this information at this time”.

Anyone who may have information is asked to call the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department information line at 240-777-2263.