Someone burned a cross in the front yard of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, but the congregation isn’t dwelling on what happened.

“I couldn’t believe it, because all the years we’ve been here, we’ve never had this happen. It was just devastating for me,” said Pastor Vernon Hooks. When Hooks takes the pulpit on Sunday, he’ll deliver a message of forgiveness. “There’s one person who’s kept me here that long, and that’s the Lord,” he said.

Since the 1870s, he says his New Hope Missionary Baptist Church has belonged to a close-knit, friendly community. On Tuesday morning, they say they found a burning cross standing up on the gate in front of the church.

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