PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — A Palo Alto church that was recently vandalized got support from across the religious community during a special Sunday service.

It was standing room only at University AME Zion Church on Sunday morning as members of several congregations, churches and faiths came together to show their support.

The message during the service was one of healing, support and solidarity for the Congregation of Palo Alto’s oldest African American church.

“It made us feel unsafe,” said Pastor Kaloma A Smith. “It made us feel uncertain. But those feelings are being washed away by the overall love that the community is showing us.”

Smith says on the Saturday after Christmas, a vandal spray painted the messages “God curses,” “Why Jesus why” and another profane phrase on the bathroom doors near the church entrance.

“Once you find out what happened, your first thought is ‘What can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again or that it won’t escalate?’ So the thought of fear is definitely something that crosses your mind,” said church board trustee Justin Montgomery.

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But instead of being afraid, Pastor Smith and his congregation decided to do the opposite and open their doors to invite the community in. They wanted to show that people of different churches, colors and faiths could worship together and that love was stronger than fear or hatred.

“There might be bad actors in the community or those who suffer from mental illness, but the fact the community has shown us so much love is really encouraging,” Smith said.

Every available seat at the church was filled Sunday, and people even spilled out into the eaves and the courtyard.

“The vandalism attacks at the whole premise of loving God, loving mankind and loving community,” said Anita Scott of the First Presbyterian Church. “And peace is the biggest thing that we need right now.”

A message of solidarity was written large in the varied faces of those worshiping together in Palo Alto.

Members of the congregation say they were encouraged by the turnout and outpouring of support for the service. They hope this type of support carries forward in the future.

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