A member of Schoolfield Church of the Brethren got an unpleasant surprise Saturday when she arrived to find graffiti spray-painted across the back of the building.
Branwen Hall, daughter of the pastor and the children’s director at the church, said her sister went to the church to do some yard work and discovered three symbols, including an upside-down cross, and the Latin words "Ave Satanas," which translate to "Hail Satan," spray-painted in red.
They called the police and reported the vandalism, then got to work trying to remove the red paint, Hall said.
Both Hall and the Rev. Richard Berkley said they were mystified about why their church was targeted.
"It’s nothing we can’t paint over, but I did hate to see it," Berkley said. "I don’t understand their purpose; in this country, you can believe anything you want — you don’t have to deface other peoples’ property to express your religion … I really feel sorry for whoever did this."
Berkley’s family has pastored the church for more than 100 years, since his great-great grandfather, Marion Prather, founded it in 1911.
A lot of The Brethren — who originally came to the United States from Germany in 1708 and settled "back in the mountains," according the Berkley — were recruited by Dan River Inc. to work in the mills.
"Several families moved to Danville when the mills were recruiting," Berkley said. "The structure was actually built by Dan River and we’re still there."
A little graffiti will change nothing, father and daughter said.
"We’ve been through World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam; we’re still standing and we’re still going strong," Hall said. "A can of spray paint is not going to change the way we worship."
Hall said she did want the community to be aware that there were people out there doing this kind of vandalism.
"I want to let people know to watch their stuff," Hall said.
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call the Danville Police Department at (434) 799-5111.
Sgt. J.W. McLaughlin said the incident is under investigation, and if it is determined to meet applicable criteria, the vandals could be charged with committing a hate crime.
Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee.