A PRIEST and his wife in Kent have dismissed the daubing of obscene graffiti in their church as a “juvenile prank”.
Two teenagers seen running from the Grade I listed seventh-century Minster Abbey on the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent, are being blamed for using tomato ketchup to draw a large “cock-and-balls” symbol on a carpet near the font. They also sprayed sauce over the 16th-century tomb of Sir Thomas Cheyne, a former owner of the church, which was by the altar. The word “Jesus” was scrawled on the floor.
The Revd Tim Hall said: “These things happen; it’s not an extreme example. It’s just small children doing what small children do. From time to time we do get small boys who draw inappropriate stuff. It’s one of the consequences of having a church that is open all the time. In the summer holidays, you get children who are bored.”
The incident on 28 August attracted national media attention. Mr Hall’s wife, Georgina, said: “Somebody picks up on it and makes something massive out of it. Penises are always bad aren’t they? People do these things because they want to shock, but the reality is that you look at it and you feel really sad that there are some people out there who feel the need to shock. It isn’t really that shocking. I just think ‘Bless them, they need to know God’s love.’”
Sheppey was a poor area where aspirations were low among its young people, she said. When they first came to the island, six years ago, they had problems with bored youngsters hanging around the church.
“I made a point of being there when they came in,” she said, “and just chatted to them like normal. I would go out in my pinny and say: ‘What are you up to? It’s a bit silly climbing on the roof,’ and it seems to gain a bit more respect than just saying ‘Clear off.’ We have sown seeds in these young people, and they will remember and think it’s somewhere welcoming. Now we have very little trouble.”
Church volunteers swiftly cleaned up the graffiti, but one of the churchwardens, Brenda Smith, said that despite scrubbing the carpet the outline was still visible. She told the website Kent Online: “It is so sad. I can’t understand why anyone would want to do this. This was a totally senseless attack.”
The incident was not the first time that the Minster Abbey, known as the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Sexburgha, has been targeted in its 1400-year history. Founded as a nunnery by Queen Sexburgha of Kent in 664, it was badly damaged by Vikings in the ninth century, and again in the 11th century. Rebuilt by William the Conqueror, the abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution, leaving just the church standing.
It was restored in the late 19th century after falling into disrepair. More recently, lights, and part of its sound system have been stolen.