With their new church home under construction near U.S. Highway 67 and Mount Lebanon Road, the congregation of the New Beginnings Community Fellowship Church were hoping for a fresh start.

A derogatory sign isn’t quite the welcome they were expecting.

The words were plain as day on the church sign — the “N-word” displayed in spray paint as part of a hateful message.

“Initially, it does make you angry. It shocks you,” said Pastor Rodney Frazier, of New Beginnings. ”[It’s] 2010, and we still have to go through it.”

The sign was not only frustrating to Frazier and his congregation, but also disheartening to those who have welcomed the church into its Cedar Hill neighborhood with open arms.

“We worked very hard as a board, as a neighborhood, to work with the church,” said Michael Lemmon, of the Kingswood Homeowners group. “I’m not real happy with it. It has no place in our city.”

Cedar Hill police are investigating and may consider the act of vandalism a hate crime.

But even though the message is negative and hurtful, Frazier combats it with a little love.

“Our ministry is based on the fact that we all mess up and slow down and slip up, but this is a place where you can start all over again,” Frazier said. “What a better way to show an example of that than by extending that grace to the persons that did this?”

For Frazier and his congregation, their new beginning starts at the sign and ends with forgiveness.

“We’re going to take it down and put a new one up,” he said. “Keep on going; we won’t be stopped.”

Frazier said they will continue to build their new church and they expect to open the doors to everyone in December.

The mayor and the city manager of Cedar Hill plan to organize outreach meetings in the community near the church to foster a better relationship with everyone in the community.