Delta Police are investigating after a local church was vandalized with anti-Christian graffiti.
Maintenance chair Bryan Hodgins discovered the disturbing message scrawled on the side of Crossroads United Church on the morning of Nov. 10. Hodgins immediately contacted police and took pictures of the graffiti that read “Kill All Christans (sic) — god is not real.”
“It’s very disturbing, especially for a lot of our older parishioners who have to walk by this thing to get into the church,” Hodgins said. “In light of things like [the shooting in] Texas this last week, you hope it’s a harmless prank but who knows?”
On Nov. 5 a 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people and injuring 20 others.
“I think the concern here is just given what kind of events are happening in the world these days, particularly the actual shooting in Texas of people in a church, that kind of hate speech — it’s hate speech, there’s no other word for it — is particularly concerning,” said Rev. Cari Copeman-Haynes, lead minister at Crossroads United Church.
“You think about all the good this congregation is doing in the community … it’s a pretty stark response to what we consider a positive presence for people who are struggling in our community.”
The incident was the second time in a week that the church had been vandalized, with both incidents occurring on the exact same patch of the sanctuary’s curved wall. However, Copeman-Haynes said, the previous incident was a smaller, more generic tagging.
“Even though we were trying valiantly to get it off of the concrete wall, it provided enough of an invitation to whoever this person was to really expand both the square footage and take the message in a way more malevolent direction,” she said.
Copeman-Haynes has been a minister at Crossroads for nine years, and six before that when the congregation was known as St. John’s-Strawberry Hill, and said she’s never seen vandalism of this nature that at the church.
“I think there may have been more of the tagging kind of graffiti in that earlier era. Since we’ve been Crossroads there’s been nothing like that at all until this moment,” she said. “It’s indicative of the kind of polarization and intolerance and anxiety, for want of a better word, just generalized anxiety and blame that is kind of the public conversation.”
Delta Police public affairs coordinator Sharlene Brooks said in an email that the vandalism at Crossroads appears to be an isolated incident, adding she couldn’t recall anything of a similar nature occurring in the recent past. Brooks said police have yet to identify any suspects but are monitoring to see if similar incidents occur elsewhere.
The paint used is sticking rather tenaciously to the raw concrete wall and Hodgins said he’s having a hard time removing the graffiti. On top of that, tape and the like don’t stay on the wall long, making it impossible to temporarily cover up the offending message.
Hodgins is waiting for an assessment from a professional graffiti removal company, but failing that the only remedy would be to paint over that part of the wall. Regardless, he said, getting rid of the graffiti will likely end up costing the church thousands of dollars.
“Putting it in real terms it’s probably going to cost several of our community dinners — not that we’d cancel the community dinners, but the cost will be equivalent to putting on at least one or two of them,” he said. “It’s not a harmless prank; there are victims.”