The pastor of a church that was burnt in a suspected arson has said he is "praying the perpetrator finds God’s love and forgiveness and hope they never do anything like this ever again".

Police and firefighters were called to Derby Road Baptist Church in central Watford on Saturday to investigate a fire which caused substantial damage to the interior.

The police said they do not know the motivation of the attack, but believe it was not religiously aggravated.

Tom Forryan, pastor at the church for 16 years, said the whole thing left him "very upset and anxious".

He said: "I live just behind the church. I was out for a walk on Saturday morning when someone said they noticed the smoke and smell of burning coming from the church.

"It was hard to discover the fire because it was under the floor boards. It appears an accelerant was used to start it.

"I have never seen anything like this before in all my years here. I can’t think who or why someone would do this. It has left me feeling puzzled.

"I am praying the perpetrator finds God’s love and forgiveness and hope they never do anything like this ever again.

"It is an emotional time. Generally all of us are shocked but God is still with us. We will take it one step at a time."

The church also had their sign at the front vandalised. Mr Forryan said he has been "overwhelmed" by the support he has received. He said: "We have had so much help offered to us from local churches and members of the public.

"It will be months before the church is back to normal. They have to rebuild the floor and sort out the smoke and soot.

"Thankfully there was no damage to the structure of the building. We hope to open as soon as possible."

The regular Sunday services have been moved to the Central Primary School in Watford. For the time being, the mother and toddlers group has been cancelled and no other services will take place.

Police believe the fire was started between 7am and 9am on Saturday. Investigations are on-going, and so far no one has been arrested.

Watford Observer:

Detective Inspector Matt Phillips said: "Our initial enquiries lead us to believe this was started deliberately, however whilst the exact motivation is unclear, we do not believe this was religiously aggravated.

"We are keen to identify the person responsible and I would like to ask for the public’s help in our investigation.

"The church is situated on the busy ring road in Watford and I would appeal to anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity at the church this morning to call police as soon as possible."

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Hertfordshire police non-emergency number 101 quoting the crime reference number C1/14/480. Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.