BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Members of a Mercer County church are turning the page on those who committed a crime.
“The church had been vandalized with graffiti that was profane,” explained Rev. Susan Rector, the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Bluefield. “It was pretty awful and I’m pretty hard to shock.”
Police believe juveniles are responsible for the weekend’s spree that left graffiti on the brick facade of the church, as well as homes and street signs in the same neighborhood. No arrests have been made.
Before Sunday service, Rector gathered with some of her parishioners talking about what the church’s response should be.
“Yes, it made us angry. But we also recognized a cry for attention, a cry for help, a cry for something when we see it,” the pastor said.
Parishioners decided to post a message of forgiveness on Facebook:
“To the individuals who painted our wall; aka Suicidal Monkey, Zombie, and JBAMS$. We are not angry with you. In fact we believe you are talented and gifted individuals whom Jesus has big plans for, plans for good and not ill. Knowing ones enemies is a good thing, but knowing ones friends is better. Your enemy skulks around in the dark seeking to destroy all good things God wants to give you. Now, come meet your friends next Sunday Morning at Trinity Church.“
Rector stressed church officials are serious about the message. It’s not sarcastic. It’s not meant as a slap in the face to those who vandalized the church. It is a true invitation to come and join the congregation and get to know them.
“We want to say to people, ‘You know, you have some talent here, but you don’t have to use it this way. And we’re here. We’d like to help you,’” Rector said.
As to whether anyone will show up for Sunday’s service, Rector said she’s not sure. But she wants those who used spray paint and profane language to know there is another way.
“There’s a place for everybody here.”
Rector said the congregation will welcome the offenders with open arms and hearts.
“I know who we are demands a response and that response is not anger,” Rector said. “That response, we use the word in the United Methodist Church ‘restorative justice.’ And that can’t happen if you don’t meet people or at least you don’t try.”
The crime has been a blessing in disguise for the church. Rector said it sparked a conversation into what the church can do to better reach out to the community, especially young people.