By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
The rainbow pride flag has flown at the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation for longer than the Rev. Lynn Kerr can remember.
She knows it was flown on occasion before she arrived at the church six years ago, and that it has been a constant presence since after she arrived.
“We want it to be known that we’re welcoming so we have a big flag out there,” Kerr said.
Many of the congregants, she said, identify as LBGTQ, or as allies. “We welcome anyone from the community to join us, especially LBGTQ.”
That extends now to those who on Tuesday trespassed on the church’s property on Ohio 25, and ripped down the flag.
Photos taken of the incident that Kerr and members of the congregation have seen, indicate the vandals were teenagers.
“I felt bad that there are teenagers who have this kind of hate,” Kerr said. “That does not bode well for our future.”
The Wood County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident. The suspects have not been positively identified, the BG Independent was told.
The incident will not keep the congregation from flying the rainbow colors, though. Kerr said that organizers of Toledo’s Pride Parade, scheduled for Saturday (Aug. 19), will present the church with a new flag.
On Sunday (Aug. 20) about noon after the service, congregants will gather out front to raise the new flag.
Kerr said the public is invited to join them.
The flag and the congregation’s outspoken support for LBGTQ rights has drawn criticism before. “We’ve riled some people up, but never felt in danger.”
And it’s not only been flying the flag that has drawn the ire. “We put controversial messages on the board, important and liberal and good messages. Some people don’t like those either.”
After the 2015 murder of nine black churchgoers at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, MVUUC posted: “Confederate flag down rainbow flag up.”
The complaints come in the form of and e-mails, like the packet of Biblical passages sent to Kerr monthly.
One local minister told Kerr she shouldn’t call herself a minister because of what she preaches.
She and her congregants are undeterred.
“I tell my congregation we’re not going to return their fear and hate with more anger. We’re going to return it with compassion.”
Kerr said she will address the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the desecration of their flag in her sermon on Sunday.
Kerr said she believes the vandals were “acting out of fear of the unknown.”
“I wish they would get to know us and find that we’re not scary, that we welcoming people and loving people.”