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May 10, 2018 | EDOT Staff

Rector Finds Remains of Detonated Package by Office Door

Sometime between the end of worship Wednesday evening and the beginning of school this morning, a package detonated outside the office door of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beaumont. No one was injured in the blast, which drew a large response from Beaumont law enforcement, ATF and the FBI according to the Rev. Steven Balke, rector of St. Stephens. 

Balke immediately called police and soon had the office and school evacuated. “The FBI is here and checking the property,” Balke said. “Everyone is taking this very seriously, especially since there is a school involved,” he added. An explosive device was located at a nearby Starbucks on April 26, but did not detonate. 

Balke, who had been at an 8th grade breakfast at All Saints School on the church campus, said he is very grateful the explosion happened before he arrived at his office. Had he or another staff member picked up a box left at the front door, they could have been severely injured.

“We are very blessed that no one was injured,” he said, “We are grateful for the messages of support and for the prayers that we have had from friends in town and across the country," he said. 

Scootie Clark, head of All Saints' School of St. Stephen's said she was very proud of her students. “The kids were calm and respectful” as they left campus she said, explaining that she felt previous practice for emergency situations had been very valuable. 

Melanie Hartfield agreed, adding that “The teachers did a fabulous job.” Hartfield, the schools advancement director and said the school was initially put in lockdown following the discovery of the damage, before being released to their parents Thursday morning. 

While law enforcement are supposed to finish their investigation at the scene Thursday evening, it is not yet clear if classes will be held Friday. 

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Hector Monterroso, bishop assistant; Carol E. Barnwell, diocesan director of communication and the Rev. Joann Saylors, Canon for Mission Amplification, met with Balke Wednesday afternoon to offer pastoral care and moral support. Bishop Suffragan Jeff Fisher and Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison plan a Friday visit to check in with Balke and school officials. 

"I am so grateful there were no injuries and that St. Stephen's and All Saints School have very strong and wise leadership," said the Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle, Bishop of the Diocese of Texas. "We must pray for the person who carried out this act of cowardice so that they might come to understand that God's love waits for them." 

Balke has been at St. Stephens since June, 2017, just months before Hurricane Harvey devastated Beaumont. “Steven is grace under fire,” said his wife, Katie.