Sometime between sunset on Saturday, September 16 and sunrise on Sunday, September 17 an individual or group of individuals forced open a window in back of Barnett Hall on the campus of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church and proceeded to vandalize the hall. Food was taken out of the refrigerators and thrown and smeared around, graffiti was painted on one wall, a large television was smashed, cleaning fluids were poured all over, fire extinguishers were emptied, an attempt was made to start a fire. The hall looked like it was the site of tailgate party gone berserk, a picnic overcome by rage.

It seems so ironic that a hall that serves as a play, lunch and study place for children, a meeting place for two community choirs, a polling place, a site for receptions and showers, a location for church dinners, and a home for community meetings could receive such rude treatment. It is so sad that a good and a happy place could be violated in this way.

It could have been worse. No one was hurt. There was no fire. In a few days the hall will likely be useable again. By next week cookie crumbs will probably be a bigger problem than mustard hurled at the wall. Still, this is not a good day. More of the church budget will have to be spent on alarms and motion detectors. The children will come to school tomorrow and wonder why they can’t go in Barnett Hall. When our Church Council gathers on Tuesday we will talk less about making a difference in the community and more about protecting our property. Suspicion occupies my thoughts more than joy.

Such is life in the city. Being part of a urban community has its price. Somebody out there needs some serious help. No one is immune from danger. The best revenge is living well. We put a new wheelchair lift in at the hall last week. Barnett Hall is now much more accessible to persons with mobility concerns. I hope there will be a community meeting soon so we can show it off and express our welcome. The church must continue to be an instrument of community understanding even when the community is an uncertain place.