A historic Black Baptist church in mid-Missouri originally started by enslaved Blacks before the Civil War was hit by vandals Wednesday (Nov. 25). The significant damage to Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church near Holts Summit in Callaway County includes shot-up windows and doors, damage from fireworks exploded inside, broken pews and podium, knocked-down walls, and overturned heating and cooling unit, refrigerator, and stove. Both its historic structure and its newer facility were damaged.
“I share with a heavy heart that our beloved church Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Missouri, has been the victim of terrible vandalism,” pastor Gordon Coleman said on Thanksgiving Day. “The vandals destroyed the place where many souls were saved, people fed and spirits uplifted. Thankfully the vandalism that occurred at the new church God blessed us with was not as severe.”
“Mt. Vernon was established by slaves in the early 1800s and was rebuilt in 1869. This small building has been the place of worship for a small predominately African American congregation for nearly two centuries,” Coleman added. “Please pray that this type of evil ends and that God will give us the resources and strength to restore this historic building.”
The Callaway County Sheriff’s Department is investigating.
“On this Thanksgiving day, we’d be very thankful for the community’s assistance with providing tips reference the burglary and vandalism of the Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church,” they said in a statement. “Frankly, the bad acts committed on this property during the early morning hours of November 25, 2020 are despicable and quite offensive.”
People can provide tips anonymously: callawaysheriff.org/crime-stoppers or 573-592-2474. A monetary reward will be given for “tips directly leading to the arrest of those responsible.”
Some members of the church believe the vandalism is likely a hate crime with the church targeted because it is Black. This is not the first incident of vandalism. Security cameras installed after earlier vandalism were destroyed in Wednesday’s attack.
The land with the church’s buildings also includes a historic cemetery, which includes generations of graves, including those of Black Civil War veterans and enslaved persons.
UPDATE: Read new piece featuring Word&Way interview with Rev. Coleman: Pastor Says Vandalism of Black Baptist Church is Spiritual Attack. For anyone who would like to give to help Mount Vernon repair the damage: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1904613 or Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, PO Box 116, Holts Summit, MO 65043 (with “Building Fund” in memo).