PARAGOULD, Ark. (BNC) — The Newton Street church auditorium was trashed by vandals sometime between Wednesday night, Sept. 23 and today, gospel preacher Joshua Dement said on Facebook.
All doors were checked and locked on Wednesday evening. The couple who clean the building arrived today around 5 p.m., and found three doors unlocked.
Police discovered that fire extinguishers had been ripped from the walls and used to cover the auditorium from top to bottom in fire extinguisher dust. The vandals overturned chairs, ripped up song books, and cast seat cushions, attendance board numbers, and flowers into the baptistery, Joshua told BNC.
“They broke out a light in the kitchen and took a soda from the refrigerator and poured in out onto the floor. They also entered one of our classrooms and tore many things off of the walls and defaced some of the materials,” he said.
The congregation has insurance coverage, but it will take several days to process everything, Joshua said.
“We have a very strong congregation who will not allow this stumbling block to get us down. We will come away from this incident stronger than we were before,” he wrote.
Many of the comments following Joshua’s news and photos of the vandalism registered surprise, hopes that the vandals would be caught, and sentiments of prayers for them.
The congregation’s Facebook page already announced changes in its Sunday meetings. “Due to the auditorium being so bad we are going to meet Sunday morning in the Fellowship Hall for worship services only at 10 o’clock. We will not have evening services.”
The congregation was established around 1984 on the city’s east side, through the initiative of Mark Howell, associate minister of the Center Hill congregation.