Parishioners heartbroken after vandals desecrate church in Northwest Texas

Posted May 5, 2023

[Diocese of Northwest Texas] Episcopalians in Amarillo, Texas, say they are heartbroken after vandals desecrated St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. A liturgy is planned to restore the worship space and consecrated objects to sacred use.

Sometime around 2 a.m. May 4, a person or persons entered St. Andrew’s through a window not covered by security cameras and immediately disabled the security system They deliberately targeted sacramental items for desecration, including the altar, the baptismal font and the processional cross. The font was the most damaged, with the carvings of saints being targeted. The tabernacle was opened and consecrated hosts scattered on the floor. Water used for the baptismal font was poured onto the floor.

The desecration was discovered by Parish Life Coordinator Marlone Givens later that morning. He called the police and then contacted the Rev. Jared Houze, rector. The police are investigating.

Houze notified the Rt. Rev. Scott Mayer, bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas, who remains in close communication with Houze. Mayer will be at St. Andrew’s on May 7.

“This attack is shocking to us all. But God’s love abides,” Houze said. “Yes, we are heartbroken. Not just about the damage and desecration to our sacred space, but also saddened that there is such anger and sickness in our community. At the same time, the people of St. Andrew’s are not strangers to hard times. This is a church that knows how to lean into each other, support one another, and choose love over everything else.”

Mayer noted that the intruders specifically targeted sacramental items.

“These physical objects, such as the font, the consecrated hosts and the altar, are outward and visible signs of God’s presence among us and as such carry within themselves the holy. Matter matters. Things that we can touch and handle can be sacred. Our very bodies are sacred. It’s related to finding the sacred in the ordinary. It is part of the incarnational nature of our theology,” he said.

“That’s why even as we deal with our own sorrow and understandable anger, we remember the importance of praying for the perpetrators, who also are beloved children of God.”

Senior Warden Bill Aikman said, “Our church was attacked by people who desperately need our prayers. St. Andrew’s is rooted and grounded in the love of Christ, and we will not be intimidated by these vandals.”

On May 7, there will be a liturgy for restoring to sacred use consecrated objects that have been profaned. Each profaned object will be symbolically cleansed by use of signs of purification such as water or incense. Each object will be touched or otherwise indicated and declared “restored to the use for which it has been dedicated and consecrated.”

The Sunday worship schedule remains unchanged.

While this attack was less destructive than the 1996 fire in which St. Andrew’s sanctuary, offices and parish hall burned, it is perhaps more shocking in the intentionality of harm and manifestation of hatred.

In his letter to the congregation informing them of the desecration, Houze asked parishioners to be aware that this desecration may trigger hard memories and awaken old griefs.

“Be gentle with yourselves as we walk together through this tender time, strengthened by the knowledge of God’s love for each of us,” Houze wrote.

On May 5, church officials issued a written statement thanking everyone who has reached out to show support for the congregation.

“The people, clergy, and staff of St. Andrew’s are overwhelmed with gratitude by the outpouring of love and support from the people of Amarillo, our diocese, our bishop, Scott Mayer, and the entire Episcopal Church in the wake of the desecration of our church,” the statement reads. “We are grateful that Church Insurance Company will be working with us to cover our losses. It also is becoming clear, however, that people are eager to help, eager to offer incarnational evidence that love wins, that evil will not triumph.”