(Madison Co., TN) The congregation of Lebanon United Methodist Church found satanic words and images when they walked in for Sunday services.
While some church members may preach forgiveness, investigators want the vandals behind bars for their crimes.
Lebanon United Methodist Church, nestled in the woods northeast of Jackson, Tenn., has a small but faithful congregation.
Kay Williams is one of them.
"Oh, there's only probably about twenty members left on the books. Everybody's either died or married or moved away."
The church also has a unique tradition of never locking its front doors. It's a way of encouraging people to stop in and pray whenever they want to.
"And you never know, sometimes we find five dollars in the collection plate," Williams said.
Kay Williams said what church members found Sunday morning, however, wasn't a tithe, but a satanic message.
"The cross on the altar table was turned upside down. And a cross that stays at the front of the church was taken down and also put on the table and turned upside down."
Williams said cigarette ashes were scattered around the sanctuary and even left in a collection plate.
The most frightening damage was on the church's original alter.
The numbers 666 were carved into the wood with an upside down cross.
They also carved the words "smoke meth and hail Satan" on the altar and even burned page six hundred-sixty six inside an old Bible.
But Williams said church members believe in forgiveness, even in this extreme case.
"We don't hate them, we still love them. Cause they're a child of God."
It will be up to the church's pastor to decide if he'll now lock the front doors after all these years, or install security cameras.
But Williams believes the picture of Jesus above the altar should be all the deterrent that's needed to fight crime,
"I hope that when they come into this church, that they look that picture in the eye. And I hope that it has some impact on them."
Investigators with the Madison County Sheriff's Office believe the vandals who hit Lebanon United Methodist are connected to break-ins at several other churches in neighboring counties.
They're encouraging people in rural areas of Madison County to report any suspicious activity to authorities.
Call the Madison County Sheriff's Office Property Crimes Unit at 731-423-6000 or Crimestoppers at 731-424-8477.