It started out as another beautiful Saturday morning in Lexington, Kentucky. My friend Laurie Brock, an Episcopal priest at St. Michaelís Church, took the short walk from the parsonage to the front doors of the sanctuary. What she encountered last week, however, was shocking.

Hateful and graphic graffiti was scrawled across the doors and the sidewalk in front of the church. Now, Mother Laurie, as sheís known to her flock, texted me photos of the graffiti. And I assure you, this wasnít just your garden variety, colorfully creative 1970ís New York City subway graffiti. This was crude, hateful stuff that invoked the political, the satanic, and the, um, anatomical.

So what do you about this? Well, the first thing you do is alert the parish and suddenly power washers appear and chemicals you didnít even know they sold at Home Depot show up and thereís a whole group of parishioners cleaning and scrubbing and washing away the hate. In several hours itís all gone, with nary a trace left.

Which is great. Except that the emotional scars of hate-speech scrawled across the entrance to your sacred space remain etched in the communityís consciousness. And I love what Laurie did the next day. She amassed several buckets of sidewalk chalk and, as part of the liturgy, she invited everyone outside to cover the sidewalk and driveway with messages of Godís love. Parishioners of all ages expressed their own responses through words and art to the hate that just 24 hours before had been scribbled all over the front of their church.

To me, this is what faith is all about. Itís not about ignoring hateful rhetoric but responding in love. Itís not about being reactionary in the face of evil but being proactive in the name of God. Itís not about rejecting others but accepting them as fellow children of God.

As Laurie said to the news media when they inevitably showed up, ďThe vandalism is not the story. Thatís a part of it. The end of the story is always love in the Christian faith. When people send out into the world hate and violence, our responsibility is to respond with love.Ē

As people of faith, we embrace a powerful counter-narrative that transcends the small-mindedness of hateful rhetoric. For Christians, this is rooted in Godís love for humanity as made manifest in Jesus Christ. Yet this is not unique to our tradition. Godís love for the world ó the entire world ó is stronger than that which divides us. And we cling to this ideal of love even in the face of anger and hatred.

Iím not sure if the perpetrators of this act in Lexington were making a political statement, a religious statement, or whether they were just a couple of teenagers looking for a thrill. It doesnít really matter. What matters is the response. And Iím proud of Laurie and her community for making an even bolder statement in the name of Godís love.

ó The Rev. Tim Schenck is rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts. Visit his blog Clergy Confidential at clergyconfidential.blogspot.com, or follow him on Twitter at @FatherTim.