August 6, 2006
An Albemarle County church was a target of vandalism on Sunday, but it does not believe to be an attack on religion. Because there were no anti-religious insignias or words spray-painted anywhere, police do not think it was an attack on the church or its members. However, it is still a serious issue, and one that members of the congregation are saddened about.
Church members at the Alberene Baptist Church on Plank Road had to go through police tape on Sunday just to get to the sanctuary. The small church was vandalized early Sunday morning when someone broke in, defaced the basement area with cooking condiments and then set an outside wagon on fire. Jeff Cales, Alberene's pastor for 9 years said these kinds of crimes are the most disturbing.
"I'm upset about it of course. I just hate for them to destroy property. All this stuff can be cleaned up, it's nothing that can't be replaced, just little things. But it just disturbs me that they would come in and just want to do that kind of damage to the church," Cales said.
With this church being the target of vandalism twice in just three years, officials are taking this morning's incident very seriously. Albemarle County Police and the Fire Marshall's office are working on the investigation and despite minimal damages, the repercussions are severe.
"It's a breaking and entering, the arson, they're severe. It's certainly not something that they're going to get a slap on the wrist for," Cpl. Wilkins of Albemarle Co Police said.
The outdoor wagon, which is used for holiday caroling and hay rides, was believed to be set on fire using candles the intruder found in the basement and luckily it was put out before it could spread.
"The Lord's at work. He didn't let them harm the church so that's the main thing," head of deacons, Milton Stargell said.
As police continue to search for suspects, churchgoers say it could have been much worse and have already put this behind them
"I hope God will forgive you and come join us because we forgive you, you know. You have to," Stargell continued.
The first act of vandalism happened 3 years ago when someone set one of their church buses on fire right outside the building, causing damage to the outside of the church as well. That investigation is still ongoing and police say the two incidents don't appear to be related.
As of right now, police do not have any suspects, but it's believed that more than one person was involved.