A liberal church in Charlotte known for its activism on race and LGBTQ issues was broken into this week by a burglar/vandal who left behind Bible citations scribbled on doors, a table and a painting – including one condemning homosexuality.
The break-in Wednesday night happened in a part of Caldwell Presbyterian Church that is used for a non-profit coffee shop called The Third Place.
Barista Alicia Bell, who opened the shop Thursday morning, said the burglar apparently got in by breaking a window in an all-gender bathroom. Stolen, she said, were 15 bags of coffee, a water kettle, grinders, a water heater, a goose-neck kettle, and some food from the refrigerator.
Bell also found the graffiti listing Bible passages. Written on the painting, which featured a rainbow-colored map of North Carolina, was 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11, which lists “wrongdoers” including “men who have sex with men” as well as idolaters, adulterers, thieves and others.
The Rev. John Cleghorn, who pastors Caldwell, a diverse church of about 300 members, said whoever broke in and vandalized The Third Place “clearly meant to send a message. This doesn’t fit the description of a hate crime, but it’s a clear attempt at intimidation.”
Added Cleghorn: “We’re going to continue doing what we feel is right.”
The other citations – including Leviticus 6:2 and Luke 12: 33-34 – appear to mostly center on thievery.
For the biblical graffiti, the burglar apparently used markers taken from the church’s Sunday School room for children, said Cleghorn.
The Third Place, which opened last year, is a project of three non-profits: Caldwell, which provides the space; QC Family Tree, which takes care of staffing; and Friendship Trays, which provides the food.
The coffee shop specializes in imported African Central American and South American coffee beans that are locally roasted (by Enderly Coffee) and brewed “pour-over” style, one personalized cup at a time.
The shop is open during the day and patrons give donations rather than purchase the coffee. At night, The Third Place is a gathering place for several local groups dedicated to seeking “common ground,” according to a sign at the entrance of The Third Place.
One example: Education to Engage’s Patrice Funderburg, a diversity and social justice consultant, has been using the space lately to facilitate a six-session discussion of Michelle Alexander's book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
The Rev. Greg Jarrell, who heads QC Family Tree, which focuses on improving the lives of people in west Charlotte’s Enderly Park area, said the break-in “seems like sort of a warning that this church was in a business it shouldn’t be in.”
Jarrell said his answer would be that The Third Place “is the kind of creative use of space and resources that really fulfills the calling of Christians to build a more flourishing culture around us.”