Church vandalized with Satanic symbols
April 27, 2011 - It's one of the holiest days of the year on the Christian calendar, but what Pastor Wayne Bennett discovered scrawled on the side of his little white church on Good Friday was definitely not of a divine nature.
|Wayne Bennett, pastor of Pathway Baptist Church in Oxford Township, examines the vandalism done to his church. He discovered these Satanic symbols on the morning of Good Friday. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)|
When Bennett arrived at Pathway Baptist Church (1285 W. Drahner Rd.) around 9 a.m. he was shocked to find Satanic symbols painted on the building near the rear entrance.
In bright red paint were the numerals "666," a number commonly associated with the Devil or Antichrist, and a pentacle, an ancient symbol often associated with Satanic rituals along with the occult, magic and the Wiccan religion.
Right next to the red 666 was another 666 written in black.
The pastor believes the vandalism occurred sometime between 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20 (the last time he was at the church) and when he arrived on the morning of Good Friday.
"My reaction was how pathetic that it happened just before Easter," said Bennett, who's been pastor of the church for 21 years. "I wondered what do I do? Do I try to get it off or do I call the police? Is there something more going on than just vandalism?"
Bennett decided to call the Oakland County Sheriff's Department "to prevent it from happening to some other church."
Deputies came out to investigate and take photos of the scene.
Those photos were e-mailed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) because this could potentially be a hate crime.
Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Patterson, who commands the Oxford Township substation, said it's standard procedure to contact the FBI in cases like this and let them review it to see "if they want to investigate it for any type of ethnic intimidation or hate crime situation."
"It could be kids (who did it), but we'll let (the FBI) make the determination if they want to investigate it or not separately from us," he said.
An FBI representative contacted Bennett on Friday and indicated the agency is going to look into the matter and will be in touch with the pastor this week.
"They're going to follow-up on it," Patterson said. "I don't know how much they can do with it, but at least they'll have (a record of it)."
Bennett indicated no other damage was done to the church. "It was strictly that and that alone," he said.
The pastor believes these symbols were left on his church because of Good Friday (the day Jesus Christ was crucified by the Romans) and Easter (the day Christians believe Christ rose from the dead).
"If you're going to be akin to Satan, that would be the time you would want to do the most damage," Bennett said. "But then again, it may be just kids."
Oxford resident Rex Baxter, a deacon at the church for 10 of his 19 years there, believes it's probably some kids who did it.
"It's a sad thing, but it happens every day in different places," he said. "We'll just definitely pray for them."
Bennett noted the vandalism might have something to do with the fact that for the first time the church now has an internet presence – www.pathwaychurchoxford.com.
"Maybe that drew somebody's attention to the church," Bennett said.
The pastor hopes that by publicizing this vandalism he can "send a message."
"If we let stuff like this happen and say nothing, it's going to continue to grow," he said. "I hope that whoever did it will see the article, will know that an investigation's being done and will think twice before they do it again to some other church."
Like a true Christian, Bennett is turning the other cheek and hoping that whoever vandalized his church will see the error of their ways.
"We will be praying that somehow this incident will cause them to turn to the Lord rather than turn away," he said. "We're not looking for punishment. We're just hoping they'll change their course of action."
Church member Teresa Mason, of Oxford, agreed. "I just pray that everything works for God's glory and that somebody finds God's love through this," she said.
Pathway Baptist Church has about 40-45 members. It's typical Sunday service draws about 20-35 people.
"It's gone up and down like most churches," Bennett said. "Sometimes it's had 50-60 members. Other times it's gone down to as little as 15-20 (members)."
"There are some people that are attracted to small churches, so we serve a purpose here," he added.
The church was founded at a Tanview home in the late 1970s. It's been located at its current site since 1982.
"We would like to invite everybody to come here," Bennett said. "Everybody is welcome at our church."
Pathway Baptist Church has a prayer service at 6 p.m. every Wednesday. On Sunday, the church has a 15-minute song service that begins at 10:45 a.m. That's followed by the regular worship service at 11 a.m. A short fellowship session with coffee, juice and doughnuts follows the regular Sunday service.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.