BEAN BLOSSOM, IND. –
An Episcopal church stands quiet on the corner of Gatesville Road and State Road 135, but the words on the sides of the church speak.
On Nov. 13, church members arriving for services were greeted by a spray-painted swastika, a gay slur and the phrase “Heil Trump” on the sides of the church.
The church has decided to let the symbols remain on the side of the church until Nov. 30.
The priest, Rev. Kelsey Hutto, at St. David’s Episcopal Church sifted through letters of support she had just received in the mail.
“These are the first letters I have gotten. Calls and emails have been incredible,” Hutto said, tearing the seal off of another letter. “We have been getting an amazing amount of support from the community.”
Hutto received a call Sunday morning from the church organist, usually the first to arrive on Sundays to practice, saying the church had been vandalized. Hutto lives 10 minutes away from the church and drove over as quickly as she could.
“I’ll tell you that was the longest 10 minutes I had ever driven,” Hutto said. “I didn’t really know what I was coming up to.”
She said her first thought was about how disheartening it was to see. Her second thought was that they were targeted for a reason.
“I know it sounds weird, but these are almost badges of honor at this point,” Hutto said.
She said the church is inclusive and has forgiven the vandals, though the Brown County sheriff’s office has not identified any suspects. She said there is no reason to make these perpetrators the scapegoats for everything happening in the nation, though there is a sense of taking ownership for what they have done.
“My assumption is that this person probably hasn’t felt heard in their own life in their own circle,” Hutto said. “If anything comes from this, it’s that this person feels like they have been heard now because it is on our walls. I’m OK with that.”
She said it is the church’s job to remember to love one another moving forward. Even those who committed the acts, Hutto has forgiven. She said they are welcome at St. David’s any time, and they love them as much as anybody else.
Jan Holloway, a member of the church, said she was initially upset but believes Hutto made a wise decision in leaving up the graffiti. She said the inclusiveness of their church may be a reason why they were targeted.
“This sends a message that we are an especially inclusive church,” Holloway said. “We open our doors, and we open our doors to all kinds of people with love.”
Jim Huber, a member of the church, said of the churches in Brown County, St. David’s is probably one of the more liberal ones. He said the church had a same-sex wedding a few years ago.
“The fag comment, to some extent, I’d hate to say fits us,” Huber said. “But I can see where somebody would’ve chosen our church to write it on rather than some other church.”
The church is using this incident as a platform. Hutto decorated the inside of the church with messages of support that have come in from Brown County and surrounding communities. It also included Facebook and emails from across the country and around the world.
She said this is a way as a congregation to feel there are people supporting them.
“Just because they defaced the outside of the wall the insides have not changed,” Hutto said.
She said the congregation decided to leave the symbols up to show the parishioners were not embarrassed.
“Let’s take the power away from these symbols. These symbols were meant for hate. Let’s change them into love,” Hutto said.
The symbols will remain until Nov. 30.
Hutto said the congregation is planning an event with the community to remove the graffiti and give community members a chance to come out and celebrate being together and build each other up.
Marylin Day, a member of the church, said while they have had a lot of support, this will probably fade away. But for Brown County it will be remembered.
“I think it will remain very significant,” Day said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of people who will look back and say, ‘That was the church that stood for everybody’.”
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.