Calgary church reacts to hate crime with special Sunday service

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WATCH: It's been two months since vandals targeted a Calgary church, but the Scarboro United Church congregation did a lot more than just replace the defaced pride banner outside their building. As Jill Croteau reports, they are taking a very public and united stand against the hate crime – May 31, 2022

Following a suspected hate crime in March 2022, a Calgary church is taking a stand against the act of vandalism.

The pride banner outside the Scarboro United Church was partially burned, ripped and defaced with the word ‘repent’.

Damage and graffiti is seen on a banner welcoming LGBTQ2S+ people on Calgary’s Scarboro United Church. handout / Calgary Police Service

Rev. Erin Klassen said it was a heartbreaking discovery.

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“We have repented. For us, repenting means turning toward each other and turning away from hate.

“I was worried for queer folk who were coming into worship and seeing it, and as the week went on, it was anger at someone for striking out in the way,” Klassen said. “I’m glad they did it to us, as the building we have broad shoulders to take that on rather than attacking a person.”

Since then, it’s been replaced with a new sign, donated by a local print shop.

New banner outside Scarboro United. Jill Croteau/Global News

Brandyn Funk owns Reputable Red Panda and after hearing the news, he didn’t hesitate to help.

Brandyn Funk, a Calgary graphic designer. Jill Croteau/Global News

“I was raised with integrity and respect, and my mom raised me that if you’re able to help, it’s your obligation to do so,” Funk said. “The fact that someone decided to go out of their way and force their opinion on a community trying to include everybody, it didn’t sit well with me.”

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It was the kind gesture of a stranger that reinforced to the Scarboro United congregation what they represent to the community.

“One of the folks in our church was upset about the banners and said: ‘I need my church to show up. I need us to not carry on like it hasn’t happened.'” Klassen said. “That was a kick in the pants for me. My instinct was to move on because it’s 2022, but it is important that if hate is out there, it’s important to counteract it.”

Inside Scarboro United. Jill Croteau/Global News

Pastor Cindy Christie-Brooks works with the Calgary Queer Church and said the Scarboro United community holds a special place in her heart.

“I was welcomed and seen here for all that I was, not just the parts that were palatable or familiar, but all of me. I was seen and celebrated,” Christie-Brooks said.

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“It is tough to be a queer Christian, but it’s equally as tough, if not tougher, to be a Christian queer. Many folks in our community are church wounded, brutalized, they’ve had the word of god weaponized against them and conversion therapy forced upon them, so it can be difficult.”

Christie-Brooks said it’s important to not be defeated by the vandals.

“Is that all you got, really? Because this community has so much more than that,” Christie-Brooks said.

The church is also counteracting the hate with a celebration. Sunday, June 5, they are holding a concert fundraiser called Hate has no home here.

Benefit concert this June 5, 2022. Jill Croteau/Global News

Singer/songwriter, Amy Bishop, is performing.

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Amy Bishop. Jill Croteau/Global News

“It’s a beautiful sentiment, especially in this world where we see evidence of hate every day, and it’s about how we are through that. Hate has no home here,” Bishop said.

Scarboro United is an affirming church and said the hate crime only reinforces their resiliency.

Money raised from the concert will go towards social justice programming. Member Shauna Snow-Capparelli said it’s important to generate funds for these kinds of programs post-pandemic.

“It has been hard on non-profits, we haven’t had a fundraiser since before the pandemic. Our funds are dry so we hope people will come celebrate with us,” Snow-Capparelli said.

Tickets for the event are $30.

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