PALO ALTO (KPIX) — The pastor of one of the oldest African American churches in the South Bay wants the community to know he’s opening his doors to everyone for this Sunday’s service after the church was targeted by a vandal over the weekend.
“Instead of recoiling in fear, we want to be those that continue to reach out,” said Rev. Kaloma Smith.
On Saturday morning, someone used white spray paint to write three messages on the restroom doors and a wall next to the entrance of University AME Zion Church.
The messages read “God curses,” “Why, Jesus, why,” and “F— God.”
“I was fearful, I was angry, I was in shock, I was asking, ‘Why us,'” Rev. Smith said.
The reverend reached out to the other half-dozen churches on Middlefield Road, including a Korean church, Presbyterian and a Latter Day Saints Church, and he said that none of them reported any vandalism.
Smith’s church, where he has been a pastor for several years, was the only one vandalized, “There wasn’t any specific racial overtones in the writing but the choice of location makes me wonder if they chose us specifically because we are an African American church,” he said.
The church was founded in 1918 and he said this is their first instance of vandalism.
“We went through civil rights, everything else, never had an issue with vandalism,” he said.
But in the wake of recent attacks at churches and religious communities, Rev. Smith said instead of closing the doors, they plan to do the opposite. He said he has renamed this weekend’s service: Sunday Solidarity.
He added that he forgives the vandal and would like to sit down with him or her to help the person, because he said it’s clear they have challenges with God.
“We want to push back against it, we want to invite every stranger in,” Smith said.
A report was made with police the night of the vandalism and they are continuing to investigate who might have been behind the messages.