Community members united in support of Stoney Ridge Missionary Baptist Church after someone spray-painted swastikas and offensive language there over the weekend, police say.
“It looks like vandals spray-painted some bias-based words and curse words on the sign of the church and on the church itself and a storehouse building behind the church," Tim Brown, public information officer for Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, said Tuesday.
The vandalism occurred between 11:30 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday at 2205 Arrington Road in Marriottsville, according to Brown. A neighbor first noticed the graffiti and called police, Brown said.
If the intent of the vandal was to cause harm, the church’s pastor said, they ended up uniting the community instead.
Armed with cleaning supplies and paint, about 10 people showed up at the church Saturday morning, Pastor Aaron Jones said Tuesday. Some were members of the congregation, which numbers about 25, and others were non-members who live in the community, according to Jones.
He and his wife had gone to Home Depot to buy supplies Saturday and found they didn’t need them, Jones said. Most of the graffiti was gone within a few hours, according to Jones.
“Really what it did was it showed the love of the community for this historic church and it brought the members of the church together to clean up and do a good thing,” he said. “You had probably more people thinking about Stoney Ridge Missionary Baptist Church than had in a long time. ... I thought that, you know, God got the glory out of that.”
The vandal wrote an obscenity on the sign, spray-painted the back corner of the church, which houses the Sunday school, and sprayed two walls of the shed behind the church, Jones said. The graffiti depicted “racist," “devil worship kind of symbols,” a swastika, and “curse words,” according to Jones.
“The letters ‘N, I, G,’ were on the back wall,” Jones said.
The church started as a Methodist church around 1898 and switched to Missionary Baptist near 1952, Jones said. While many Missionary Baptist churches in the area are predominantly African-American, Jones said Stoney Ridge welcomes everyone and is not predominantly African-American.
He did not know whether someone targeted the church specifically, but speculated it was a crime of opportunity.
Jones started as the church’s pastor in November, though he grew up Missionary Baptist and knew of Stoney Ridge for years prior to becoming its pastor. He could not recall a time when an incident such as this occurred in the community previously.
Volunteers were able to clean up most of the graffiti, but the sign will need to be replaced, Jones said, because the cleaning chemicals used to remove spray paint would also remove the lettering on the sign.
When asked for more specific information on what words were used, Brown wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon that, “There were multiple words, profanities and symbols that were biased based and general hatred that could be directed towards several different groups. It appears that the graffiti is directed towards multiple groups."
Black and red spray paint was used to graffiti the church sign and several sides of the church and storehouse, according to Brown. The damage totals about $700, Brown said.