By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE — A Stephenville church left open for prayer was vandalized late Sunday early Monday, but the pastor says it was not an act of malice or persecution.
“We don’t think this is anything more than a person under the influence of something, so we will pray for him and lift him up to the Lord,” said Father Curt Norman of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. “We do not believe this was malice or persecution toward us or any of our parishioners or toward Christianity in general.”
Stephenville police sergeant Sha King said the department received two calls about 12:30 a.m. Monday, one reporting vandalism at St. Luke’s and another reporting a suspicious person walking around in shorts with no shirt on.
Jeffrey Dale Travelstead, 27, was arrested a short time later and is currently incarcerated in Erath County Jail. He faces charges of criminal mischief more than $20,000 but less than $100,000, and bond had not been set as of noon Monday.
“One officer went to the church while another located Mr. Travelstead walking around in the area,” said King. “He was wearing shorts and no shirt.”
King says there are damages to many things at St. Luke’s, including crucifixes, brass candleholders, the tabernacle, wall art, a door, and the baptism fount. The sergeant agreed with Father Norman that the vandalism did not appear to be an act of persecution toward the church.
Norman said church members and area pastors were rallying around St. Luke’s.
“St. Luke’s is a very close-knit family, so many parishioners are rallying together to help and everything is in good hands with them,” said Norman in a phone interview while traveling out of town Monday for the Episcopal General Convention he was elected to. “Our bishop from Fort Worth will be there this afternoon.”
Norman said many have reached out to help, and he is confident St. Luke’s will handle the adversity well.
“I’ve had other pastors around town like Ed (Dittfurth) from Cornerstone Assembly and Kurt Plaxco from the Church of the Nazarene who have reached out and offered to help and we are very appreciative,” Norman said. “There is damage to material items, and it is hurtful. There will be some tears and anger, but we will pray together and we will get through this.”