WEST COLUMBIA, SC — Only a handful of members of the St. John Baptist Church in the Dixiana community of Lexington County attended Sunday mass after church members discovered Saturday morning that vandals had shot out the church’s windows.
Rev. Patricia Lowman said the recent shootings have many wondering if their church will remain safe.
“We are at a loss for words, this mess should stop. It has to stop,” Lowman said, thankful that no one was in the church at the time of the shooting. “There was no regard for human life.
As the members of her congregation took time after the Sunday service to help clean the glass from the carpets, a Lexington County sheriff’s deputy keeps watch to make sure no more harm comes to the church.
Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty said detectives investigating the incident believed that it happened sometime last week. McCarty said an estimated $6,500 in damages and although he could not comment on what kind of evidence was collected at the church, Lowman said there were several shell casings near the front gate of the church.
Although the shooting has given pause to some church members, it is not the first time they have had to rebuild their church. In the mid-1980’s St. John was one of many churches that was the target of racial discrimination after Ku Klux Klan sympathizers desecrated the church. Then in 1995, three teenagers burned the church to the ground. More recently, the cemetery at St. John was vandalized on Dec. 23, 2014 when individuals overturned and broke several headstones.
Although the church has withstood many acts of vandalism in its history, Lowman said she would accept another location for her church in a heartbeat. She said she was looking to move the church following the incident in 1995, but the cost of purchasing land for a new location was too expensive.
Lowman said moving forward the only thing the members of St. John can do is to continue to encourage each other and continue to worship.
If anyone has information regarding the vandalism, they are encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (888)-CRIME-SC. The St. John Baptist Church is also accepting donations to help repair the windows and other parts of the church damaged by the shooting. If you would like to make a donation, you can send it to:
• St John Baptist Church – Dixiana, 1311 Old State Road, West Columbia, S.C. 29172