Haygood break-in hits close to home

The Southerner

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By Elizabeth McGlamry

I’ve always considered Haygood United Methodist Church a second home. I go to church every Sunday with my family, I went to the after-school care program for six years, and I’ve been involved with church programs for as long as I remember. When I walk in, it’s like walking in to my living room because everything is so familiar. That’s why, when two or three people broke in and defaced the church, it felt like a personal affront to me.

According to the police report, the purported teenagers smoked pot, knocked over Christmas trees, broke ornaments, wrote obscenities on the walls and countertops in the preschool and ripped out pages from a Bible and threw them around. Not only that, but Haygood’s senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Sheila Bookout, told me that the teens unwrapped presents meant for underprivileged kids in our neighborhood.

I had to take a second when I heard that. They broke into a church. My church. They goofed around, messed a couple of rooms up and played around with a ball. While I can’t understand these actions, I can forgive them. But writing curse words on the walls of a preschool, ripping pages out of a Bible in a church and unwrapping presents for needy kids? Really? The word heartless comes to mind.

When I heard about the break-in, my first reaction was that I wanted to punch the little punks in the face. It felt like someone had come in and messed around in my house, and I was angry. But after a while, and after talking to my pastor, I realized that the most important thing was that it wasn’t worse.

I also realized that Haygood is so susceptible to this kind of incident because of how open the church is to the community. On any given day, Haygood opens its doors to church members, community neighbors, preschool children and student basketball players and their parents and greets them with open arms. Haygood offers toddler dance classes, adult Bible study and exercise classes to anyone in the neighborhood who signs up. Haygood is truly a community center.

And Haygood will continue to be a community center. No rebellious little rascals will ever mess that up. While the church may pump up security and be extra careful about door codes, it will never stop being a place for people to come and find what they need. The church will replace the Bible, find new ornaments and clean up the walls—but Haygood won’t change. Haygood reaches hundreds of families in the area in some way, and it won’t stop because some kids thought it would be funny to trash it.

The one thing I do hope is that these kids realize how stupid their actions were. I hope they realize that it wasn’t cool, and I truly hope that they are not bragging about it. They probably won’t get that, seeing as they thought breaking in to a church was a good idea, but maybe when they’re older they’ll understand. Maybe if someone defaces their home, they’ll understand how every church member feels.

Until then, please, stay out of my church.

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