Christian Monument at Williams College Vandalized

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An unknown perpetrator defaced a Christian monument dedicated to missionaries at Williams College with anti-Christian graffiti this past weekend.

Some of the graffiti spraypainted on the Haystack Monument included terms such as “Pagan Rule,” “Blood,” “Ouch,” and “Hail Satan,” according to The Berkshire Eagle.

“Damaging property is a violation of Williams policies and the law, and costs time and money to address,” Williams College president Maud Mandel wrote in a letter to faculty, staff, and students dated Monday, May 15. She said the vandalism occurred “Just after Saturday midnight,” which suggests the early morning hours of Sunday, May 14.

Much of the spray paint has been removed, Mandel said, with further cleaning being arranged.

The Haystack Monument memorializes the event in 1806 when five Williams students sought shelter from a storm by a haystack to continue discussing religion and missionary work. This meeting, the first documented event of Americans planning missionary works, became known as the “Haystack Prayer Meeting.”

Two years later, the five Congregationalist students, one of them Samuel Mills, and other students dedicated their lives to missionary work, calling themselves the Brethren. From their work came the American Foreign Mission and the eventual formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

In 1867, the monument was erected in Mission Park at Williams College, a liberal arts school with an enrollment of about 2,000 students in Williamstown, at the northwestern corner of Massachusetts.

The Haystack Prayer Meeting has been seen as revitalizing Christianity in the United States, and many Christians honor the event, including a bicentennial celebration that took place in 2006.

However, in recent years Williams College has taken a more mixed approach to the event.

The missionaries’ goals were admirable, but their “attitudes and language were laced with Christian imperialism and colonialism,” the College’s web site says. “As we have grappled with our history, Haystack anniversaries have changed in their focus from a celebration of Christian missionary activity to reflect broader societal movements.”

This attitude was reflected in the Williams College president’s letter addressing the vandalism this past weekend. “The Haystack Monument has been a focal point for ongoing campus discussions about Williams’ institutional history,” Mandel wrote.

“We expect those discussions to continue in the next academic year,” she continued. “Our colleagues in the Chaplains’ Office and the Davis Center, among other areas, are available to talk with anyone concerned about the impact of this incident on themselves or our community.”

The Davis Center acts as the college’s diversity, equity, and inclusion department.

NewBostonPost requested comment from a spokesman for the college, asking, among other questions, if the school condemns the vandalism against a Christian monument. 

In an email message to NewBostonPost on Tuesday, May 16, a spokesman said the college was “focused on removing the graffiti from the monument (this process is almost complete — we have to be methodical to avoid damaging the stone) and making resources available to anyone in our community who was affected by the incident or feels concerned about it.”

“We’ll consider whether to talk to reporters later in the week, but for now, that’s all we have to say from here,” he wrote.

The incident on Saturday was not the first time the monument was defaced. The monument was also vandalized in 2018.


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