Western New York: Randolph church responds to vandalism with grace

By diocesan staff
Posted May 22, 2013

[Diocese of Western New York] Residents of Randolph, New York, awoke May 20 to a village-wide rash of vandalism. Buildings had been spray painted with graffiti — some malicious and some an apparent cry for help.

Across the side of Grace Episcopal Church was painted a question of the second type: “Can I still get to heaven if I kill myself?”

As the Cattaraugus Sherriff’s Department spent the day investigating, the Rev. Tom Broad, Grace Church’s priest, pondered what the church’s immediate response might be. His idea was an unconventional one.

After conferring with two of the church’s lay leaders, he borrowed a can of spray paint from a neighbor and added the church’s reply: “God loves you with no exceptions!”

The question is a very real one in this town that has had its share of teen suicides. According to the CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBS) 2011 survey, 19.3% of female respondents and 12.5% of male respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the 12-month period preceding the survey. The YRBS monitors priority health risk behaviors that
contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States. The national YRBS is conducted every two years during the spring semester and provides data representative of 9th through 12th grade students in public and private schools throughout the United States.

Comments (4)

  1. Lance Woodruff says:

    What a loving, immediate and practical response to a terrible message from an unknown communicator. Prayerful thanks to Rev. Tom Broad, the parish and people of Grace Church and the wider community., and prayers for the potential suicide himself/herself.

  2. Richard Bidwell says:

    We never know how we might be called to proclaim God’s Grace! Thanks for the example.

  3. The Rev. Harry L. Knisely says:

    Well done. I might have invited the person who left the message to come by.

  4. Judy Dillon says:

    As an Episcopalian and a lifelong sufferer of hereditary major depression plus seasonal affective disorder, I completely understand and sympathize with the person who painted this question on the church wall, for I have this same question in my own mind daily. I am very proud of Grace Church’s comforting and understanding response, and frankly, I hope the question and the answer are never erased. The answer comforts me, and makes me prouder than ever of my church. There definitely ARE helpful and safe medications available, and I pray all individuals suffering from depression will seek professional help. I did. I’ve been taking anti-depressants since 1976.

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