LONGVIEW, Wash. -- Pastor Eric Atcheson tried to sense of the senseless during his first sermon following a vandalism spree that nearly burned down one of Longview's most historic places of worship.

The reason I wear the robe is so people can't see the knees knocking below it, said Atcheson minutes after his sermon.

It's hard for him to let go of anger after vandals broke into the sanctuary of the First Christian Church and set hymnals on fire.

They carved profanity into a beautiful piano, they set fires in bathrooms and quite simply trashed the place.

There were condoms laying all over the sanctuary and two-liter bottles of soda along with bottles of whipped cream and peanuts all over, said Justin Wheeler a church member who also works as a janitor here.

It's still smokey in the sanctuary, but large air filters are taking care of that. Even though someone in town offered to donate a new piano, the congregation decided to repair the one they've got.

I was devastated when I first heard about it, said Wheeler. I just wanted to break down and cry because I couldn't understand why someone would do that to the most historic church in town.

Pastor Acheson says he won't lose sleep trying to figure out why someone would do such a thing. Instead he's focusing on forgiveness.

I don't know if we were protected or are just blessed, but look around, all of this is still standing, said Acheson.

We welcome the ones who have done this to us with open arms, hopefully they will visit and learn what we're about, said Wheeler

Read or Share this story: