For nearly two hours Wednesday, Pastor Ross Manders waited to speak with the man accused of firebombing his church.

Dressed in jeans and flip-flops, Manders, 33, sat quietly in the back of a small Bucks County courtroom, preparing to offer forgiveness.

"It's a dangerous prospect to hold people's past against them," Manders said, "without allowing them to embrace grace."

As the pastor waited, John Serina Jr., 33, sat handcuffed on the other side of a wall. He still wore the biker-style beard from his mug shot. But his shoulder tattoos - five-pointed stars - were hidden under a bright yellow prison jumpsuit.

Manders hoped to steal a moment after Serina's preliminary hearing. Would the men finally get to talk?

In April, Serina allegedly broke the bathroom window of the Restoration Church in Levittown and tossed in a Molotov cocktail. He also burned down a large wooden cross outside and much of the church's playground, police said.

The fire required $70,000 in repairs, mostly for smoke damage, and the Baptist congregation of 200 spent the next three Sundays on the church lawn.

Police immediately suspected Serina, who lived nearby, because he claimed to have been one of the first people on the scene, before fire crews arrived, and said he tried to put the fire out. In the hours after the blaze, Serina engaged Manders in a bizarre conversation, repeatedly telling him how great the church was for the community.

Serina confessed in June, police said, after he was arrested for firing a pellet gun at a man in the neighborhood - he missed - and slashing the tires of 20 cars.

"He was angry at life," said Tullytown Police Chief Daniel Doyle, who investigated the crimes with police from neighboring Falls Township.

Doyle said Serina was unemployed, and had become increasingly distraught over his father's health and a relative's death. He also recently left state prison, where he served four years for pulling a gun on two high school students over a perceived slight.

"Someone was going to get hurt if he continued on like this," Doyle said.

Manders grew up in Minnesota and earned a master's degree in divinity from Bethel University, outside St. Paul. He and his wife, Emily, who grew up in Newtown, moved to Bucks County to open Restoration in late 2013. It is the sister church of Grace Point church in Newtown, and the plan was to embed Restoration in the neighborhood, with Manders hoping that neighbors would join.

Many did, but not Serina, who lives three doors down. The men knew each other in passing, and Manders would say hello when Serina walked by with his dogs.

As they wait for the outcome of the case, Manders wants to visit Serina in jail, the same way he has visited parishioners who have gotten into trouble.

"As a pastor, I make sense of this in a very particular way," Manders said. "John suffers from what a lot of people do. He's chosen to live a self-centered life, and the Bible calls that death. Our lives should be full of beauty and joy."

Serina waived his preliminary hearing on Wednesday, sending the case to County Court for a possible trial. As Serina was led out of the courtroom, Manders made his move.

"John, can I visit you in prison?" Manders said.

Serina shook his head and said, "No."

Manders said he plans to keep trying.

"God's love," the pastor said. "It compels us to do crazy things, like embrace the person who burns down your church - or tries to, anyway."

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