It’s been three years since I received a call that our church, Trinity United Methodist Church, had been vandalized.
I was not prepared for the level of damage inside the sanctuary. Railings had been ripped from the choir loft, organ pipe facades had been crushed. Lights were torn from the walls. The cross was ripped from the ceiling and our memorial stones were scattered. Our sound system was carefully removed perhaps so the parts could be sold.
But this was not simply a robbery. Our sacred space had been intentionally destroyed.
With the help of people in the community, we were able to clean and rearrange our sanctuary to hold worship. I am thankful for the outpouring of prayers and support from the community. It helped to heal our wounds and restore faith.
And just as we were able to be back in our worship space, the unthinkable happened — the outbreak of COVID-19 reached Fairmont. The church was shutdown. After adjusting to Zoom worship and staying connected through phone calls, the closing of the church for regular worship provided the time and space necessary for renovating the sanctuary.
We renovated the front of the sanctuary. We replaced the crushed pipes with an inset wall, doors and new lighting. Underneath the destroyed carpet were wooden floors that brightened back to life after refinishing. New carpet and flooring covered our primary traffic areas. Once the COVID community transmission rate declined we were able to be back in our sanctuary.
As I stepped back and looked over the worship space, I realize we would not have undertaken such a renovation without the outpouring of support and love from the community.
Ephesians 3:20-21 comes to mind: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
God has taken this tragic experience of vandalism and accomplished far more than we could ask for or even imagine. Our hearts are full of gratitude.
Yet still I wonder why the vandalism occurred in our church.
Trinity UMC is a historically African American church with deep roots in the Black community. It was organized as John Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church for Negroes in 1869 on Monroe Street at the site of the former Jones Chapel.
There are many churches in the area with much more valuable resources. Growing up in the friendly city of Fairmont I never wanted to believe that our town suffered from racism. However, the attack on our church appears to be racially motivated.
Through COVID, my eyes were opened to the disparity in acknowledging the spread of COVID among the Black community in Marion County. I am thankful for the efforts that have been made to overcome the disparity but there is more work to be done. I grieve over the bias that remains in our communities. From the outpouring of support from the community I know that I am not alone.
I will praise the Lord no matter what happens.
I will constantly speak of his glories and grace.
I will boast of all his kindness to me.
Let all who are discouraged take heart.
Let us praise the Lord together, and exalt his name. Psalm 34:1-3(LB) from History
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