UPDATE: 2 teens charged for vandalizing a McMinn Co. church
MCMINN COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) — A congregation in McMinn County is trying to move forward after teen vandals tested their faith.
Members of Jones Chapel United Methodist tell Channel 3 the crime happened Thursday, under the dark of night.
Friday morning church leaders found their van, basement and walls smeared with hate.
John Crabtree has been the pastor at Jones Chapel for three weeks. In that time his church has been broken into twice.
This week vandals spray-painted Nazi symbols, and other profanity all over the building.
Despite the crime, the congregation held services as usual Sunday morning. During the service Pastor Crabtree encouraged his flock to be compassionate, and forgive.
It's a different Sunday morning service at Jones Chapel Church, you can hear it in the worship and prayer requests, as a wronged congregation remind themselves to forgive.
"We're going to pray that God will continue to bless us as we move beyond this, and fix the things that are broken," Crabtree says.
Word travels fast in a small country church. It wasn't long after the broken basement window was discovered Friday morning that the congregation knew what happened the night before.
"They wrote some vile things on our van and downstairs," says Crabtree. "Then they put symbols, and swastikas on the building."
In the basement classrooms are covered with insults, satanic symbols and profanity. The vandals even urinated on the floor before the left.
"The people have been hurt and injured," Crabtree says. "We're praying for healing."
Sunday some of the symbols are already faded after a quick clean up Friday night. The church van was first priority with Vacation Bible School around the corner.
"The sheriff himself came out," Crabtree says. "He had one of the teens in custody within the hour."
Crabtree was impressed by the quick detective work that narrowed the vandals down to two 16-year-old boys, within an hour of reporting the crime. Neighbors identified vehicles, and deputies recovered evidence linking one of the juveniles to the scene.
"There have been words of anger," Crabtree says. "There have also been many more words of forgiveness."
It's a quick message of forgiveness from pulpit before the pastor moves on. He says he won't let the hurtful crime distract the church from its mission.
In another break-in sound equipment was stolen from the church Family Life Center. Authorities say the incidents do not appear to be connected.
Both teens live near Jones Chapel Church, they are charged with burglary and vandalism.