A 36-year-old man has been charged after three religious centres were vandalized with homophobic statements over the weekend.
“It feels like an attack,” said Lia Storey-Gamble, a member of the Grosvenor Park United Church.
The church, along with McClure United Church and St. Andrews College, were all victims of the vandalism.
The organizations are part of Affirm United, an initiative from the United Church of Canada to help ministries and people become more inclusive, including of different sexualities.
“It just really shows us how much work needs to be done in terms of LGBT+ acceptance, especially in religion,” said Storey-Gamble.
Sunday morning, several volunteers went to Grosvenor Park United Church to check on an issue with their thermostat. Instead, they found the message spray-painted on their door.
They quickly moved to clean up the message.
According to the Saskatoon Police Service, the man was arrested close to midnight on Saturday after spray-painting McClure United Church and St. Andrews College.
The man has been charged with three counts of mischief relating to religious property or educational institutions, two counts of mischief in relation to property, and one count of failure to comply with an appearance notice or promise to appear.
The man appeared in court on Monday.
Grosvenor Park United Church asked the city earlier this year to ban conversion therapy — the widely-discredited practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — in Saskatoon. The city voted to ban the practice April 27.
Storey-Gamble said she won’t let this incident hurt her church or its message.
“We are an activist church. We believe in working hard on these issues,” she said.
“This instant shows us how much more work needs to be done. Our church is more accepting than ever. Our love is still strong and we’re ready to do that needed work.”
As for the perpetrator, Storey-Gamble only offers him love.
“We are hurt. We are so deeply hurt as a community, as a congregation, as a united church, larger faith practice,” she said.
“Know that our hearts are full of love and if that person is struggling with things we are compassionate to any issues they might face.”
Storey-Gamble is encouraging people to do things like draw pictures and write messages of support in chalk outside her church.