A predominantly black Baptist church in England has been pelted with eggs, had windows broken and staff verbally abused in a series of racially motivated attacks.
Calvary Charismatic Baptist Church is a 300-member congregation aligned with the London Baptist Association and Baptist Union of Great Britain. While described as growing and vibrant, the three-year-old congregation has a history of problems with neighbors.
Residents at first opposed the church, saying an influx of cars from church members left them no place to park. The community voted last year to impose controlled parking in the area.
During the past year, the church has been dogged by complaints about noise, though church leaders installed sound-proofing to the building formerly used as a garage two years ago.
The church’s 35-year-old pastor, Claude Halm-Adjepong, told the Baptist Times the claims seemed “malicious.”
“When people in the community realized they couldn’t do anything about our being there, they brought in other things to smear us, like parking and noise,” he said.
During the past two months, the pastor said, the harassment has escalated.
“We’ve had at least four incidents of windows being smashed,” he told the Barkingham & Dagenham Recorder. “We’ve had racial abuse, eggs and somebody coming in to threaten staff.”
Halm-Adjepong told the Baptist Times that staff members have received abusive phone calls. Notices and banners have been torn up and removed. The church’s closed-circuit TV system has been damaged and on two separate occasions church members were pelted with eggs, he said.
“We have had a gentleman blowing a horn, standing over the wall [of the church] and shouting racial abuse when the congregation has just come out of the church,” he said. “That is something that has happened twice.”
The pastor said the church decided not to press charges for the sake of “community relations” and is trying to be “tolerant” in the face of hostility.
Halm-Adjepong praised local police for condemning the attacks and urging the community to be more tolerant.
A community leader and the police chief said in a letter to the editor of the local paper they were “dismayed and shocked” by news of the attacks.
But church leaders say the leader, Councilor Val Rush, has done little to help the church, appealing instead to a minority of hostile neighbors. Rush wrote a letter addressing “an ongoing problem with noise” from the church and made comments that left the congregation feeling “alienated and insulted” in a January meeting about parking.
“She told us she was not interested in us, that she represents the residents,” Halm-Adjepong told the Baptist Times. He said the councilor made the statement three times.
Rush told the Baptist Times she didn’t recall saying that.
The council in Barking, Essex, a borough in London, recently set policies to handle growing demand for houses of worship to accommodate various religious groups wanting to set up shop in the community.
Calvary Charismatic Baptist Church sits next to the Canning Town Mosque, a building that was once the local synagogue. The Baptist church serves mainly members of African communities, with strong representation from Ghana and Kenya.
Halm-Adjepon emphasized to the Baptist Times that most members of the church are local residents. About 40 percent live in the immediate area around the church, he said, and 80 percent live in Barking.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.