Police have arrested a man over the fire which devastated a Christchurch church yesterday.
It took six crews to get the fire at St Margaret's Presbyterian Church in Bishopdale under control, after emergency services were alerted at a 5.45am.
Police said they had arrested the man, who was in his 30s and would appear in Christchurch District Court today.
Fire Service spokesman Andrew Norris said the chapel and store room were extensively damaged and the building was a complete write-off.
He said if the church had smoke alarms and sprinklers it could have been saved, but such equipment was not a legal requirement for churches.
Church minister Andrew Nicoll said he arrived at 6.30am to find multiple fire crews fighting the blaze.
"We've managed to tell most of our church community, our focus at the moment is to make sure everyone is supported - obviously this is upsetting for some.
"We are just thankful no one was hurt," Mr Nicoll said.
He said people were upset when they saw the extent of the damage this morning and the congregation planned to meet this afternoon to worship together.
"People have strong connections with buildings, as the people of Christchurch know. A church is more than a building."