Vandals strike church
Break windows, damage pews before service

LAWRENCEVILLE - On Sunday, 35 members of Hopewell Christian Church came to services to find broken windows, shattered glass and concrete blocks in their sanctuary.

Six windows were smashed with the blocks, which gouged the new pews church members had worked so hard to buy. The carpet was torn and linoleum floors were scuffed. There was glass everywhere.

"It just broke your heart when you walked in and saw God's house damaged," church trustee and treasurer Teresa Fowler said. "It's one thing if it's my house, but this is God's house."

Police don't have any suspects and have no evidence to suggest why the 45-year-old church on Old Peachtree Road was targeted, said Cpl. Illana Spellman, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Fowler and others think local teenagers might have had something to do with the damage. Kathy Riner, a neighbor, said she noticed three smashed mailboxes in her Briar Pointe neighborhood Monday morning, but Spellman said there was no evidence to suggest the crimes were related.

"Things like that just make you uneasy," Riner said.

Churchgoers noticed the damage when they arrived for Sunday school about 9:45 a.m., Fowler said, but no one had been in the church since a cleaning crew left Friday evening.

Fowler said members decided to continue with services, sitting on the right side of the sanctuary, but couldn't help but look at the shattered windows, now covered with plastic and tape.

This is the first time the church has been vandalized, she said. No one entered the building and nothing appeared to be taken.

After services, Fowler said, members banded together for three or four hours to pick up glass and clean the area. She said Hopewell's preacher told the congregation to pray for the vandals and use the incident as a lesson for the church's children.

"We have an appreciation for things more," Fowler said. "It really made an impression on the church."

The church's insurance policy will pay for the new windows and other than a faint sparkle in the carpet and on some pews, the glass has been cleaned up. The concrete blocks that broke the windows were moved outside of the sanctuary.

Fowler said members were crying and hugging each other, glad that the windows hadn't been broken while they were in the church praying.

Louis Fowler, Teresa Fowler's husband, said he planned to offer a $500 award for information about the crime.

"I'd give that out of my pocket," he said. "I'd love to know who done it."