Kidron pastor threatened with note and nooses
Elders work for reconciliation with perpetratorby Anna Groff
On July 16, Pastor Larry Augsburger found a box containing two nooses and a threatening note written to him that was left in his office at Kidron (Ohio) Mennonite Church.
Augsburger is a transitional pastor at Kidron. He began in October 2009.
In an interview with Augsburger and several elders at Kidron on July 21, Augsburger said they prefer not to reveal the text of the note. The note twice referred to hanging and also referred to shooting.
Augsburger and the elders know who committed the offense. When the perpetrator saw the article, he talked with some people in the church who were able to determine that he was the one who left the nooses and the note. They reported this information to the elders.
Informing the congregation
The elders planned to announce the incident to the congregation on Sunday morning, July 17. However, a July 16 article appeared in The Daily Record that reported on the incident, so the elders decided to send out a churchwide e-mail to inform church members.
“It was a wonderful thing because it took the shock factor away from the announcement Sunday morning,” said Augsburger.
The head elder, Gary Miller, informed the church members that, first, the newspaper article included an inaccurate quote about a “divide” at Kidron Mennonite.
“We would have to say that there has been resistance to some innovations that I’ve suggested as transitional pastor,” Augsburger said, “but that has never been a divide in the congregation.”
Miller also assured the congregation that this individual was working alone.
Augsburger was not present at the July 17 service. It was the Sunday a pastoral candidate participated in the worship service, and the elder said that traditionally a transitional pastor is not present when a pastoral candidate visits.
Augsburger said the reason for not attending was not because he felt threatened.
“We didn’t feel that anyone was in actual, physical danger,” said Thomas Dunn, associate pastor of youth and young adults at Kidron, in the interview.
Plans for reconciliation
Two elders, Jon Fielitz and Elton Lehman, have had “significant contact” with the perpetrator. On the evening of July 16, they visited him at his home to tell him they discovered he had written the note.
They have also met with him several times since. The elders request that he enter counseling, and he has complied.
“For right now, we’ve asked him not to be present at church or on the grounds of the church,” said Augsburger.
Augsburger said he has not yet met with the perpetrator but plans to set up a time for reconciliation.
The sheriff’s office is working with Kidron Mennonite on the congregation’s terms. The elders chose to reveal the name of the perpatrator to the sheriff, so his name and the incident is on record.
However, the Sheriff’s office will not take further action unless the Kidron elders make a request.
"The sheriff's department has cooperated with us wonderfully and has been willing to accept our efforts to work with the offender in an effort to bring healing and reconciliation," said Augsburger.
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