WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 29, 2010, 08:13 AM

Community rocked by desecration of church sanctuary

Gwinner, ND (WDAY TV) - The Sargent County Sheriff's office is continuing its investigation into a troubling and unsettling crime that has rocked the community of Gwinner. During this Holy Week, members of the Gustaf Adolf Lutheran Church are preparing to celebrate Easter Sunday in their sanctuary vandals recently desecrated. It left members of the century old church shaken, angry, and looking for answers.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

“It has been a shock, denial, and just a sense of violation.”

At a time when Christians are preparing to mourn the death then celebrate the resurrection of Christ, members of Gustaf Adolf Lutheran in Gwinner, North Dakota have been grieving.

“It is scary to think you can't leave your church open.”

It is an act that has shaken them, the desecration of their church sanctuary.

“It was like it took your breath away. Who could do such a thing?”

Vandals walked into the unlocked church, wrote hateful messages against Lutherans and the Christian world; on church pews, the communion rail, and the altar. The end is near and God is dead written in German. Perhaps most troubling and disgusting, the suspects defecated on the pastor's liturgical book near the altar and spread feces on altar cloths.

“It was that sense of trust and being open to everyone. It was just an overwhelming sense of loss and grief and tears.”

“You know what, at first I was mad. Really, really mad and then I got sad. What kind of a mind do they have to do that?”

But once the congregation of Gustav Adolf processed the vandalism they decided it would be them who would clean it all up. Confirmation students along with longtime members scrubbed and cleaned it.

“It was a cleansing and it was good we did it.”

Since the vandalism members of the congregation has been worshiping in nearby fellowship hall and so it will be this week holy week that they return to the sanctuary.

“And we need to come together to heal.”

This Wednesday night, the church will host a community wide cleansing and healing service to be held here. It is a chance for the members and pastor to move on from this violation. This is a week Christians take inventory of their own lives. It's holy Week and at Gustaf Adolf, they are searching for peace, leaning on grace and hoping to forgive.

The congregation is also offering a one thousand dollar reward in this case. Investigators with the Sargent County Sheriff's office continue to do interviews in connection with the church vandalism.

No arrests have been made, but authorities say they have been showing pictures to people in the community hoping it will lead to "persons of interest. The sheriff's department has been getting some tips and information it is following up on.

“I think it is a disturbing crime. We have vandalism that occurs regularly, but when you go into the church and see the acts it is disturbing, especially in these small towns where the church is an important part of our community.”

If you have any information on the church desecration, you are asked to call the Sargent County Sheriff's Department.