First Covenant Bombed: Ex-Elder Held for Arraignment Today

Fratting, IL (AP) Officials of Fratting's First Covenant Church are assessing the damage today after a midnight bombing ravaged the massive fellowship hall of Covenant's five-year-old church building. Left undamaged by the powerful blast were the sanctuary itself, located directly west of the fellowship hall, and the education wing, located in the basement.

Authorities are holding Markham Scarred, a forty-three-year-old, self-employed electrician, who gave himself up without a struggle at his home early this morning. Police officials allege that Scarred, who recently concluded a three-year term as elder at First Covenant, had left a lengthy, signed note of explanation taped to the communion table inside the sanctuary.

The explosive charge was set with obvious and particular intentions, according to Len De Fuse, state munitions expert, who was on the scene already in the early morning hours. "Apparently the bomber knew exactly what he was after," De Fuse claimed. "All he wanted was the fellowship hall."

Oddly enough, the bomb awakened hardly anyone in Fratting, a town of five thousand, when it detonated at midnight. Neighbors reported hearing nothing at all, and no damage has been reported to neighborhood homes.

Pastor E. M. Brace, who has served at First Covenant during the five years since the building's dedication, walked through the shambles this morning, sweeping up shattered Styrofoam cups and paper napkins. "When we built this church," Brace said, visibly shaken, "the people wanted a fellowship hall more than anything. Now it's gone, just gone."

Scarred, who according to authorities has no previous criminal record, is known in the church as a strong believer, a fine family man, and a leader of considerable abilities. "It's the work of a man suffering an extreme case of burnout," Brace said this morning, "but I know why he did it. That's the odd thing—I know why he did it. I just wish I could have guessed he would do it."

Police officials refused to release copies of Scarred's note to the media, but Pastor Brace claimed he had taken the opportunity to read through it. "It all makes sense," he said. "I mean, in retrospect this whole ugly thing makes sense."

Brace claims that throughout Scarred's three-year term as elder the council had been inundated by complaints Brace himself characterized as "petty jealousies." Brace explained that some individuals were "miffed" because they felt that other members of the congregation shunned them during the coffee-and-cookies time immediately following the morning worship service at First Covenant. "Sometimes it gets like high school around here," Brace said. "So-and-so isn't talking to so-and-so—you know, that kind of thing."

Brace claims that Markham was so tired of that kind of bickering that at one recent meeting he threw council minutes all over the room in frustration. Then he turned to the others and screamed, "All we do is nickel-and-dime stuff in this consistory. I've heard more complaints by snippy people about not talking to this one or that one—more complaints about that trivia than anything in three years. I wish we'd never built that silly fellowship hall—all it is is a pain."

According to Brace, Markham's note made basically the same point. "I don't remember it exactly—word for word— but it had the same sentiment: 'If people are going to get all in a bundle about who talks to who and who doesn't talk to who, then the silly fellowship hall creates more antagonism than it's worth.' It was something like that," Brace said. "I've heard him say those things before anyway."

Mrs. Scarred was not answering phone calls throughout the day. She did, however, release a statement to the media early this morning. Among other things, the statement calls her husband's bombing "an act of moral conscience" and a "visual demonstration" of "the true nature of fellowship in the church."

In the statement Mrs. Scarred claims that her husband believed that "church fellowship" was accomplished through what she termed "the preaching of the Word and the exercise of the sacraments." Her statement alluded to the fact that traditionally "fellowship" was thought to be "based on the Lord's fellowship table," referring to the traditional celebration of communion. She said her husband was convinced that the fellowship hall was in conflict with the "fellowship of bread and wine."

Mrs. Scarred concluded by noting that while she wanted her husband home with her and their family, she supported his "conscientious attempt to help people see what God wants."

Pastor Brace, told of Mrs. Scarred's statement, simply shook his head. He picked up the disc-like cover of a twenty-gallon Kool-Aid tub and spun it over into the corner with the rest of the trash left behind in the wake of the explosion.

"I respect his opinion," he said, "and I understand what he's saying too. But in today's world the bread and wine are not enough to draw people. Like it or not, you've got to have coffee and cookies."

Brace claims that because the damage to the building is limited to one area, services will be held as usual this Sunday. "All we'll really be missing is the coatracks," he said. "And if it doesn't rain, we'll just have our coffee outside."

James Calvin Schaap (jschaap@dordt.edu) is a writer and professor of English at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.