Church cross set on fire in Lincoln County

| May 28, 2010

The Rev. Randolph Wray got the call early Thursday from a deacon: a 6-foot cross church members had put up outside the sanctuary about two weeks earlier was on fire.

Wray, who lives in Shelby, drove to Edwards Chapel Baptist Church in the Toluca community of rural Lincoln County and talked to police.

He learned someone had wrapped the cross in clothing, soaked it with some type of fuel, and set it ablaze.

“It shocked me,” said Wray, who has pastored the small African American Church for six years. “It shook me for a while. The cross was less than ten feet from the church.”

A passing motorist spotted the blaze shortly after 6 a.m., according to First Sgt. Lee Keller with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

Someone broke into the brick church, but nothing was reported missing, he said.

Keller said the FBI was notified of the incident.

Wray didn’t know what to make of the burning.

“I can’t say it’s racist,” he said. “But it was very cruel. Somebody was trying to destroy God’s word.”

Founded about 100 years ago in what was mostly a farming community, Edwards Chapel has about 100 members, Wray said. In the past, the church has been hit by occasional vandalism. He said someone overturned an oil tank outside the church and stole a lawnmower.

But nothing as bad as the cross burning.

Wray said when the cross went up a purple cloth was draped over it.

A new cross will be installed, he said, along with other improvements to the church building.

“This (incident) could have been much worse,” Wray said. “I pray for the person who did it. This is going to make the church family stronger. We’ll come back. We’ll fix up God’s house.”

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Category: Church Security

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