Gastonia A Gastonia pastor said he can forgive whoever it was who vandalized his church and then attempted to burn it to the ground.
“I was saddened by it,” said Rev. Marshall Owens, pastor of Friendly Baptist Church on Rhyne Street in Gastonia.
Sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning someone scrawled words and drawings that were profane and in some cases racist in nature. A memorial slab with the Ten Commandments was smashed and kicked over.
The person then tried to set the siding of the church on fire.
Investigators found a folded piece of paper on the door of the church. On it, someone wrote, “Your God can not stop me.”
Officials say the incident caused an estimated $2,300 in damages, including $1,500 for the profanity on the doors and walls outside the church.
“I was real disappointed because people really disrespected God’s house,” Owens said.
The pastor believes it was all the work of neighborhood teenagers but Gastonia police are not treating it as a kid’s prank.
“The incident is under investigation as an arson,” said Gastonia Police spokesperson Donna Lahser. “Arson is a felony. It is a very serious crime.”
As upset as the pastor and church members are at what happened, Owens said he would like to talk to whoever did it and his message would be one of forgiveness.
“I’d just tell them how much that God loves them and how much the church loves them,” said Owens.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-861-8000.