Satanic scribbling sullies church sidewalk


Story by Nate Beck, Copy Editor

Every Sunday morning, First Baptist Church pastor Loyed Arnold leads his congregation in praise and prayer time before service.
But on the morning of Nov. 3, church-goers stepped over the worst act of vandalism Arnold had seen in his years as a church leader.
A message — “smoke meth, hail satan” — was written in red and black spray paint on the sidewalk leading to the front steps of the church.
Church members didn’t pray for revenge, they prayed for the person who did it.
“It might be kind of mean and nasty, but there’s something not quite right with that person,” Arnold said. “We simply prayed for God to heal the hurt that’s causing them to be involved with this kind of activity.”
Arnold worked as a pastor in the San Francisco Bay area for most of his career. He’s used to seeing graffiti on buildings, trains and freeway signs, he said.
John Glenz has attended First Baptist since the mid-70s. He was raised Lutheran, but his wife was born a Baptist.
Glenz said it will cost the church about $300 to get the paint removed from the sidewalk. Church members were able to scrape away part of the message, but pores in the concrete held most of the paint in place.
“It’s discouraging,” Glenz said. “I feel sorry for people who would do that. I don’t understand why someone would do something like that.”
He said members sometimes have to pick up beer cans littered near the church on Sunday mornings, but he’s never seen direct vandalism to First Baptist or other churches in Eau Claire.
Arnold said he’s learned not to leave his garbage cans out on weekends. He’s had to pick them off the head of the statue in Randall Park, across the street from his house next door to First Baptist.
He’s seen spray paint and cracked eggs on church signs before, but solvents quickly erase paint from glass or plastic signs, he said. Cement is another story.
“That’s over the line,” Arnold said. “If it had been something we could have washed off with water, I wouldn’t have cared. That’s a crime if you have to sandblast it to get rid of it.”
Paul Hilbrich, a retired Eau Claire music history professor and longtime member of First Baptist, was out of town when the church was vandalized. He’s never seen vandalism on his church or any others in Eau Claire.
“Any vandalism on a church is uncalled for,” Hilbrich said.
Eau Claire Police Department community relations officer Kyle Roder said police didn’t log any reports similar to the graffiti at First Baptist.

The defaced church was built in the 1890s and survived a fire in the 1935. Inside are 20-foot vaulted ceilings, a massive wall-mounted pipe organ and stain glass windows — unique features in a baptist church, Arnold said.
Arnold said it’s fortunate the vandals didn’t paint directly on the church. But he’s concerned that people don’t blink about defacing a house of worship.
“There’s not much sacredness left in the world,” Arnold said. “Nowadays it doesn’t matter what it is, if someone gets an idea into their head and they find a place they want to vandalize, they do it. It doesn’t matter.”
Although First Baptist church is at the intersection of Fourth and Niagara, in the heart of UW-Eau Claire student housing, Arnold doesn’t think a college student is responsible. He suspects someone older.
But Arnold said whoever is responsible, church members will forgive, pray and do what they can to help.