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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Out of the ashes

Texas congregation finds forgiveness for vandals who damaged church

The Dallas church whose building was ravaged by arson on March 5 is reaching out in forgiveness to the young men charged in the incident.

Bethany Lutheran Church suffered an estimated $300,000 damage to its office and fellowship hall. The sanctuary was spared. Insurance will pay for repairs.

The fire was part of an early morning spree by vandals who also splashed acid on cars, slashed tires, smashed windows and painted racial slurs and satanic graffiti on cars and buildings — including Bethany. Nobody was hurt.

Dallas police charged four local males, aged 16 to 20, with felony arson. Police told The Dallas Morning News the young men admitted to abusing drugs before the spree.

"Our hearts go out to the victims and the vandals," said Bishop Mark Herbener of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod. "There are people who don't know what possesses them. We call them to their senses and invite them to the faith."

To that end, Bethany members are reaching out to those charged and meeting with their families. One of the young men has since attended worship at Bethany and helped in the cleanup.

"He expressed his deep regret for what happened and was embraced by many of Bethany's members," said Neila Petrick, the church's outreach leader.

Herbener praised Bethany for responding in love to the perpetrators. "For all the signs of faith and community ministry arising from the ashes, we are indeed grateful," he said.


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