After worship services concluded at the Grace Church of the Nazarene at 4300 Independence Avenue on Sunday, August 11, staff members locked up the building and went home, as they do every week.
However, when they returned on Thursday morning, they found a mess. The church had been vandalized and burglarized.
“We think that someone may have hidden inside the church before we locked up,” said Tammy Carter, a leader within the church, “We have boarded up many of the windows to make it more difficult for people to break in. It’s not exactly pretty, but it was necessary.”
While there was no evidence of anyone forcing their way into the church from the outside, someone had used a crowbar to break all of the internal locks and force entry into every room within the church.
They ate food from the kitchen, but didn’t stop there. They poured out the rest of the food and juice throughout the church, turned over chairs, tossed bookshelves, and even broke communion trays. The church’s sound equipment was also stolen.
In a Friday afternoon post on Facebook, Carter announced “We are planning to meet at the church at 10am tomorrow – Saturday. If you are willing to come and help clean a spot or two – or help replace doors and locks… we can use all the help and encouragement that you can provide!”
In response, Carter said over 50 volunteers arrived. Members of the congregation, folks in the community, and pastors from other congregations as far away as Leavenworth, Kansas showed up to lend a hand.
“That’s been a really neat part of this,” she said. “Some of these people aren’t even members of the Nazarene church.”
Grace Church of the Nazarene has been at Independence Avenue and Spruce Ave for over 90 years, and Carter has been a part of the church for the past thirteen years.
The demographics of the church have changed with the neighborhood and they serve a very diverse congregation.
They offer a traditional church service in English every Sunday at 10:45 and second service at 2:00 on Sunday afternoons, which is translated and tailored toward their Central African congregation, which Carter describes as “a much more lively service.”
The congregation has actually been renovating the church. They have repainted all of the interior walls to brighten it up and very recently ripped up the carpet.
“In that respect, we were very fortunate.” Carter said. “Can you imagine if we had laid new carpet and it had been damaged?”
Although the vandalism and burglary is a frustrating setback for the church, Carter wants people to know they are a very welcoming congregation.
“Everyone who walks through those doors has their own stories, whether it be homelessness or drug addiction. We will not judge you. No one would ever be turned away,” she said.
Perhaps the person or people responsible for the destruction may feel compelled to return, under different circumstances. If they are seeking forgiveness, they may find that the Church of the Nazarene will offer them Grace.