Texas rector finds remains of detonated package by office door

By Episcopal Diocese of Texas
Posted May 11, 2018

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] Sometime between the end of evening worship May 9 and the beginning of school May 11, a package detonated outside the office door of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beaumont, Texas. No one was injured in the blast, which drew a large response from Beaumont law enforcement, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the Rev. Steven Balke, rector of St. Stephen’s.

Balke immediately called police and soon had the office and All Saints School on the church campus evacuated. “The FBI is here and checking the property,” he said as law enforcement officials gathered. “Everyone is taking this very seriously, especially since there is a school involved,” he added.

Balke, who had been at an 8th grade breakfast at the school, said he is very grateful the explosion happened before he arrived at his office. Had he or another staff member picked up a box left at the front door, they could have been severely injured.

“We are very blessed that no one was injured,” he said, “We are grateful for the messages of support and for the prayers that we have had from friends in town and across the country.”

Scootie Clark, head of All Saints Episcopal School of St. Stephen’s, said she was very proud of her students. “The kids were calm and respectful” as they left campus she said, explaining that she felt previous practice for emergency situations had been very valuable.

Melanie Hartfield agreed, adding, “The teachers did a fabulous job.” Hartfield, the school’s advancement director, said the school was initially put in lockdown following the discovery of the damage, before the students were released to their parents later in the morning.

The school is due to reopen May 14.

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Hector Monterroso, Diocese of Texas bishop assistant; Carol E. Barnwell, diocesan director of communication, and the Rev. Joann Saylors, diocesan canon for mission amplification, met with Balke the afternoon of the incident to offer pastoral care and moral support. Bishop Suffragan Jeff Fisher and Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison plan a May 11 visit to check in with Balke and school officials.

“I am so grateful there were no injuries and that St. Stephen’s and All Saints School have very strong and wise leadership,” said Texas Bishop Andy Doyle. “We must pray for the person who carried out this act of cowardice so that they might come to understand that God’s love waits for them.”

Balke has been at St. Stephen’s since June 2017, just months before Hurricane Harvey devastated Beaumont. “Steven is grace under fire,” said his wife, Katie.

This was the second explosive device recently reported in the area. One was found at a nearby Starbucks on April 26, but did not detonate.