NEENAH, Wis. (WFRV) – Pastor Jim Garnett’s phone rang late Sunday evening waking him from a deep sleep. The call came from the Neenah Police Department asking him to get to his church as soon as possible.
Whiting Community Baptist Church happened to be in the path of a vandalism spree on Neenah’s westside.
A rock thrown through a glass door and spray-painted upside-down crosses and vulgar statements on doors, walls, and a storage shed were all on full display as Pastor Jim pulled up to his church.
In over 150 years as a congregation, including 51 years at the current Tullar Road location, nothing like this had ever happened before.
Pastor Jim’s first thought? “Why would someone do what they did?”
And after taking a moment to reflect upon what he was seeing, it was clear there was reason for grace. “Looking at some of the messages that were spray-painted…. realizing that this is someone who obviously is troubled and dealing with some issues…the officer was able to give me a little bit of information about their background and some of the messages began to make sense,” said Pastor.
The moment of shock quickly became a moment of practicing faith.
“It’s sad, it was hard to see but it put everything we live by each day into practice,” said Kim Rose, Congregational Finance Coordinator for the church.
Members of the congregation came together in the aftermath of the event and began to wash away the paint, almost poetically.
“I went to the hardware store and picked up some chemicals,” said Henry Rose, Building and Properties Ministry Leader for the church. “With the help of other church members, we used a pressure washer to clean off the paint. Considering how close the church is to the elementary school we wanted to get the strong language washed away as quickly as possible.”
In over two decades as a pastor he’s never seen anything like this, but Pastor Jim’s call to live by his faith didn’t flicker for a moment.
“There’s no hard feelings…there’s no anger…because we want to react in a way that God wants us to in all of this circumstance.”
Neenah police say the vandal was a 14-year-old girl. She was charged with five counts of graffiti and one count of criminal damage to a religious property. She was released to her parents shortly after her arrest.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of this article is a member of the church mentioned in this story.