One year ago on Nov. 14, Cedar Hill AME Zion Church in Ansonville experienced what Sheriff Tommy Allen called “the worst case of vandalism and hate crime” he’d ever seen.
“On the inside of the church we found tables broken, ceiling fans broken, speakers pulled from the walls and thrown through the stain glass windows, chairs broken and thrown through windows, the podium destroyed, every window in the church broken out and graffiti spray-painted all outside the church,” Allen said.
Phrases such as “God is a Lie,” “house of the devil,” and “Go back to Africa” were spray-painted on the exterior walls of the church, as well as the N-word and F-word. A small cross from the pulpit was taken down and attempted to be burned at the church’s front door. Tombstones from the neighboring cemetery were even thrown through the church’s windows.
Despite the devastating vandalism, the church and the community banded together to clean up and rebuild, and less than a month later, repairs were almost completed. By that time, the church had been repainted, broken items repaired and all that was left was to replace windows on the church’s side.
“Most of our renovations have been done,” the church’s pastor, Renee Bethea, told county commissioners in December 2011. “With the help of insurance and donations, everything is done except the windows. We have been blessed.”
In April, three individuals were arrested and charged in connection with the vandalism. Bryan Matthew Balser, 21, of Albemarle and Daniel Tyler Huneycutt, 19, of Rowan County and Jacob Andrew Schrimpsher, 18, from Oakboro. The three were charged with church vandalisms in Stanly and Rowan counties as well.
Bruce Ingram, chair of the church’s trustee board, said Monday that the church has fully recovered from the incident now. “The services are good and we’re doing fine now,” he said.