Surprised by hate, soothed by love: Kansas City church rallies after homophobic vandalism | KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City United Church of Christ at Brookside has always been a welcoming community, according to longtime member Rick Truman.

Truman and her husband, Jerry Pope, who plays piano and organ for the church, became members when Pope was hired to do congregational music in 1999.

Three years prior, the church had officially voted to designate itself as Open and Affirming (ONA). The designation distinguishes these congregations from the United Church of Christ by affirming the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the Church and its ministry.

In the nearly 30 years since, Truman said he had never seen an act of hate like what happened overnight on July 6 when six rainbow-colored doors sky with the phrase “God’s gates are open to all” painted on it was painted. defaced with the words “evil” and “repentance”.

“I was amazed. I was appalled. I was disappointed, all of those things,” Truman said of his reaction to the anti-gay vandalism. ‘there are still people who hate, there are still people who don’t believe that loving everyone is the right way to live life.

But just hours after the discovery, community volunteers painted on the doors and restored them to their original form.

In an address to the church on Sunday morning, Emilly Stott said Thursday, the day the artwork was found vandalized, was a “crazy and chaotic day”. But seeing the community overcome the hate with overwhelming support was uplifting, she said.

“But it was extremely calming to see how supportive our neighbors were from the start,” Stott said. “It was really cool, really overwhelming, to put it all on the pitch. I think we all felt really special here this week.

Missouri Sen. Greg Razer, a Democrat from Kansas City, Mayor Quinton Lucas and Jackson County Legislative nominee Judge Horn attended the service.

Razer said it was the first Sunday service he had attended since he was 18 – it was when he left the small town and the evangelical church he grew up in. The church preached hatred towards him as a gay man, he said.

“As we go, we’re repainting that panel,” Razer said in a church address. “As we watch terrible things on the news, we cannot let them harden our hearts. We cannot become bitter. We cannot allow them to take away what makes us special.

Razer believes the gates were vandalized due to growing far-right intolerance.

“I hope this is a wake-up call for the community,” Razer said. “We see on the far right of the political spectrum a boldness to embrace hatred, to embrace intolerance, to embrace violence. What we saw happening in this church this week was a sign of intimidation to tell them to stop loving, to stop caring about people.

Lucas said being a Kansas Citian means accepting others and people have to prove it.

“We all belong and we should all be able to have all the opportunities here that we can have anywhere else,” Lucas told the congregation.

“So keep repainting when people show you the truth in our neighborhoods. Keep repainting when people’s posts say others don’t belong. And more than anything, keep repainting when you know there’s someone in the world who needs to hear your love, who needs to hear from you that we care and will welcome you. .

Truman said while the hateful message painted on the church doors last week was shocking, it means the congregation is a beacon of acceptance for the community.

When he first joined the church, Truman said congregants joked that if the Westboro Baptist Church didn’t protest against them, they wouldn’t accept enough.

“In a very sad and weird way, when our church was vandalized, it was, ‘OK, maybe we’re finally doing something right,'” Truman said. “Maybe we are finally preaching our message out loud and proud enough that we are a place where everyone is welcome. No matter what your background, no matter who you are as a person, you are welcome here.

Ultimately, Truman wants people to know that the Brookside Church will always be welcoming to all – especially when others resist that acceptance.

“I’m so proud that this church is saying, ‘No matter who you are or where you are in life’s journey, you are welcome here,'” Truman said. “It doesn’t matter what baggage you have. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you can bring to the table. You’re welcome. I’m so proud of it. And so happy to continue to help spread this message.

Barry F. Howard