Church forgives vandals for pre-Easter mess

| April 8, 2010

Despite vandals almost ruining the Milan Baptist Church congregation's Easter worship, church members aren't angry.

In fact, when one of the suspects turned up with his parent to apologize, they were invited to join the Sunday service.

"We're not angry or upset with them. We hope that this will have a positive impact on their lives," said Allison Cook, who's attended the church all her life.

Her mother, an 80-year-old member of the congregation, was the first person to find the mess on the morning of Good Friday.

Vandals emptied two fire extinguishers throughout the worship area and in every other room except Cook's office.

A thick yellow dust covered everything, including cut and potted floral displays.

"It was bad," Cook said. "I knew it was just too much for (my mother) to handle."

Cook started calling other congregation members. By the time word got around, about 40 people gathered with cleaning tools to prepare for Easter Sunday.

"Our congregation is like that. We usually pull together and get through it," said Cook. "The ladies washed every leaf and flower. We were concerned that the dust was toxic, but we called the company and they said it wasn't."

Other people removed 200 green cloth chairs and cleaned them while others swept as much as they could off the carpet.

"They were bound and determined to clean it up before Easter," said Huron County Sheriff's Lt. Annette McLaughlin.

While McLaughlin inspected the mess and photographed evidence, the parishioners lined up at the door to start repairs and clean-up.

"I couldn't get out of there fast enough for them to start their clean-up," said McLaughlin.

Authorities are considering charges against two 15-year-old Milan boys and a 16-year-old Erie County resident for juvenile delinquency by breaking and entering, vandalism and theft.

A fourth teen boy from Perkins Township is also thought to be involved, though he has yet been interviewed.

Assistant Huron County Prosecutor Jennifer DeLand is reviewing the case, but didn't return a call seeking information Wednesday.

In addition to discharging the fire extinguishers, at least one of the vandals urinated on the carpet next to the baptism area.

"That's the part that hurt us," said Cook looking at a spot on the carpet.

The congregation paid a professional cleaner to shampoo the carpets on March 30. On the same day, someone apparently broke into the church but didn't remove or damage anything, said McLaughlin.

The locks were changed immediately after the break-in was discovered, Cook said.

On Friday, the vandals used a window to enter the church and then opened a side door.

"I think it was just a prank that went bad," said Cook.

Several items stolen during Friday's incident, including an antique marble hourglass and electronics, were recovered as McLaughlin interviewed the suspects. McLaughlin's hoping the fourth suspect has two remaining electronic items.

"I was thrilled with the response of the congregation in the face of a potential disaster as they worked together to make sure we could celebrate Easter," said Rev. Rodney Hollen.

Hollen added he was pleased to share Easter with one of the young men "who made a mistake."

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Category: Church Security