Royal Oak church service 'Zoom-bombed' by outsiders with profane, racist comments

"We started the day with worship and we were Zoombombed," Rev. Beth Taylor said. 

She's the pastor at St. John's Episcopal Church in Royal Oak. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-March, they've been conducting Sunday service via Zoom - but this past Sunday, as 100 families were worshipping, they say several racists crashed the service.

"About ten minutes in they unmuted themselves and began to issue some really horrific racial language," Rev. Taylor said. 

"He immediately unmuted himself and began the profanity and the racial slurs and as soon as I removed him someone else popped up and as soon as I removed that person someone else popped up," said Holly McNeal, the church's Faith Formation director. She says her two children, ages 7 and 10 - who are biracial - were also attending the service when it happened. 

"It's the first time it's directly come in their face and affected them like that and they were very upset," McNeal said. 

"The most horrific language that you can imagine," Rev. Taylor said. 

The church's technology team is working to secure future services against hackers while continuing to welcome the community.

The pastor says, if anything, this experience has made them even more determined to do the work that so desperately needs to be done.

"That is to eradicate racism and bigotry in every form that we encounter it, and we'll continue to do that work with love," Rev. Taylor said. 

"Racism doesn't win; we win. God wins. Love wins, end of story," McNeal said.