“It got all over everything,” said Marshall, “the floors, the chairs—and unfortunately it’s … corrosive to metal and we have a pipe organ in that room and the whole organ is going to have to be disassembled and cleaned and reassembled.” The vandal also sprayed the chemicals all over the church’s kitchen, which the congregation uses to prepare meals for people experiencing homelessness.
“We can’t use the kitchen until it’s been cleaned,” Marshall said. “So we had to scramble and figure out how to prepare a meal with no kitchen. We’ve never missed a Tuesday in all of those 11 years.” The reverend said the cost to clean up the damage is estimated at over $50,000.
Another church building damaged this week was St. Simon’s Baptist Church, a historic Black church in Orange Park, Fla. St. Simon’s was totally destroyed by a fire that started late Thursday evening. No one was hurt, as the church was under renovations and not occupied at the time of the fire.
However, Detective James Little said the fact that the fire started in an empty building is reason to consider arson as a possible cause. The Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention is currently offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the culprit. While any theories as to the cause of the fire are at this point speculation, it is worth noting that on March 17, the church’s pastor pleaded guilty to sexual battery of a minor.