First Covenant Church To Begin Advent Following Vandalism Incident
First Covenant Church will be holding a special advent ceremony Wednesday following a vandalism event at the church that prevented service from being held Sunday.
The church, located at 530 Spring St., discovered the vandalism of the interior of the building Sunday morning, which resulted in the congregation’s first Sunday of Advent being postponed until Wednesday evening.
Pastor Adam Rohler explained that the Sunday morning service had to be canceled as a result of an ongoing police investigation of the building and the need for the building to be cleaned from the vandalism incident.
“A man broke into the church Friday evening, destroyed equipment, made a mess and unsuccessfully attempted to start some fires,” he said.
The church’s television and front alter, along with other items in both the sanctuary and fellowship hall were vandalized during Friday’s break-in incident.
Rohler, who was away for the Thanksgiving holiday, said he was notified of the vandalism incident early Sunday morning by another pastor at the church.
“I was in shock, then I felt horrible that I could not be with my church community during this time,” he said. “Our leaders and staff did a fantastic job of caring for each other, cleaning, praying and investigating.”
Rohler explained the vandalism incident is “troubling” and “a little frightening.” He expressed concern that someone would break into the church and vandalize the interior of the building, including the sanctuary.
Prior to the discovery of vandalism in the church, Rohler said the congregation was preparing to celebrate the first Sunday of Advent.
“It is a time, in the words of ‘Joy to the World,’ to, ‘let every heart prepare him room,'” he said. “We were ready for the choir to sing, our children to make Christmas ornaments and to gather together in order to hear about the light and love of God.”
While the church was prevented from meeting for the first Sunday of Advent, Rohler said the church is determined to overcome adversity and celebrate the Christmas season. As a result, the church will hold a special service Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in honor of the first week of Advent.
“We wanted to find a way to continue with this season even though it is slightly postponed,” he said. “The first Sunday of Advent is hope Sunday and we did not want to skip the opportunity to talk about hope in the midst of the struggle of this world. We were going to talk about hope in dark places, light in dark places and how the light of God is not overcome by the darkness. That’s still true.”
In a post on social media Sunday, Rohler thanked the community for their prayers, for the love and support of the church and for those who helped clean the church after the vandalism incident.
Rohler shared that the vandalism incident caused him to reflect on the future of the church and the example of Scripture.
“I can first of all tell you that Jesus was no stranger to people doing mean, violent things,” he said. “He knew all about it. In fact, he died for that person who did this to our sanctuary just as much as he died for you and me. That’s the good news, and that’s the Gospel.”
Rohler said the season of Advent is surrounded by darkness, as Christmas comes just days after the “darkest day” of the year. Despite the physical darkness and the darkness of difficult times in people’s lives, Rohler said the Advent season offers hope for the community.
“It is always in the dark where hope begins,” he said. “It is always in the struggle where God’s joy arises. In response to this hope, we are called by God to love even those who do not love us in return.”
Rohler said the hope of Christmas extends even for the person who vandalized the church last week. While the church anticipates consequences for the actions of the person responsible for the vandalism, Rohler said the man is still loved by both God and the church. Rohler hopes the person responsible will find hope this season.
“I hope and pray he finds the help he needs and that he too might know hope and love this Christmas,” he said.
As the church prepares to launch the Advent season this Wednesday, Rohler is confident the church will remain strong in the face of adversity this Christmas. He is encouraging the congregation to respond to the incident by being a “light” that shines in the darkness.
“We’ll kick off Advent again,” he said. “We’ll find ways to be the light in midst of dark times. We will find ways to make beauty out of ashes. We will find ways as the people of God to let our light, love, joy, peace and truth shine no matter what.”