Arson at Church

A few years ago, members of the congregation who own Sport Court of Iowa donated everything we needed to make our own state-of-the-art basketball court.  The idea was to serve both our congregation and the community, as this is the only semi-public basketball court in all of Windsor Heights.  Though our church’s use of the court has waned a little this past year, it has remained a focal point of our outdoor facility for many of our members.  Additionally, word has spread throughout the neighborhood of our awesome court, and lots of young people have made use of it.  Most of the time this has been a good thing…but, as of late, there has been an increased level of vandalism that has taken place on the court.

The handle / crank that raises and lowers the height of the basketball hoop had been stored in the storage garage next to the church.  On more than one occasion, people had broken into the garage, taken the crank, lowered the hoop, and kept the crank for future use.  A couple of times, the guilty party would leave the crank out, and we would reclaim it.  I believe we went through 4 cranks in the past 2 years.  Our picnic table was defiled with all kinds of hate-speech and lewd pictures.  The garage was spray-painted with vile language.  The rim was broken, as was the large pad that surrounded the base of the hoop.  Additionally, our pastors had been verbally abused by people using the court when they were asked to keep the noise down after 11:00 pm…or simply when they were walking by the court as they entered the church.

Last night our pastor received a call indicating that someone had started a fire on the court, leaving “considerable” damage.  It appeared that an accelerant was used (gasoline?), as well as pine needles.  The vandals also ripped pieces of wood from the adjecent playset to fuel the fire.  Other than that, I know very few details.  The “sport court” was lifted, leaving a cement slab.  The hoop has been removed indefinitely.  What was conceived as a way to outreach to the community – and to add a place for outdoor fun and fellowship for our community of faith – has literally gone up in smoke.  I’m sure we will deliberate in the coming weeks and months about the best way to proceed…but in the meantime, I will remain heartbroken over this entire situation.

I’m grateful for the work of the  Windsor Heights police and fire departments, as well as for the quick response by our pastors and church members who helped with the clean-up.  My hands wreak of burned pine needles and melted plastic / rubber.  I’m sure that will go nicely with my turkey sandwich.

For those of you in ministry – how would you respond to this situation?  Would you hunker down and start a more intense pro-active outreach to the people who come to the basketball court?  Would you ask volunteers to do a “stakeout” and wait for the purpetrators to return and then call the police to arrest them?  Would you close up shop, as we are temporarily doing, and allow the situation to just “go away” over the course of the winter months?  Most importantly – what is God’s call to ministry for churches like WHLC who are finding itself in a community that is becoming more culturally and socio-economically diverse than ever before?

Here's what some of the tiles looked like

Here's what some of the tiles looked like

Close-Up

Close-Up

Fire Damage

Fire Damage

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6 Responses to Arson at Church

  1. Kara says:

    Do the police no longer invistigate arsen? Well..if they don’t i think they should and then those people she be given the punishment that an other would get for the same crime. Just because they set fire to church property doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished.

    On a lighter note, my box of paper clips has a 1 year warrenty. You know…just in case on of them malfunctions.

  2. Erik says:

    Reports have been filed at the WH police & fire departments. We all have a pretty strong feeling about who did it, but no real way of knowing.

    Glad to hear the paper clips are protected for a full year of wear-and-tear. Are they fire-proof???

  3. Sam Leahy says:

    wow…I can’t believe all the stuff that has happened to the court since the last time I played on it. I am sorry to hear about the recent events of the court and I pray you guys come up a clear and right decision. Sorry to hear of the bad news.

  4. rebekah reynolds says:

    om goodness
    thats ridiculous

  5. Kristi says:

    Wow – that is uncool in a huge way. Great question about “what next”. That was my thought as I was reading your post. Part of me says “stake it out and when the wrongdoers show up, instead of calling the cops, talk to them.” But in this day and time that could, unfortunately, be dangerous. Another part of me says to try and rebuild, maybe including video cameras aimed at the court … but I don’t know if that’s monetarily feasible. I hate to see a few bad apples spoil what I’m sure was great for the community. Hopefully the answer will come to you.

  6. knock says:

    Do you remember how many hoops I had to have put up at St John…I finally found an old junker that was made of steel and had to be welded up…if you remember….it had absolutely no give, but I could have hung on that mother and she wouldn’t have come down! It is always too bad when one or two spoil it for the whole community but it is even harder to keep putting it up and see the intentional damage, suffer the verbal abuse and keep be grace-filled…I’m not that good of a person! But you knew that!

    Where the heck did Kara get paperclips with a warranty? Our church clips don’t have snot for a warranty and if you carry them around in your hand they make your hand smell bad!

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