Clergy, activists and churchgoers gathered in a show of support at Wedgewood Church Monday after an anti-gay slur was painted on the church's rainbow-colored front door last week. It was the seventh act of vandalism in seven years at the church, which reports half its congregation is LGBT.
About 100 people stood in front of the church off Tyvola Road, where organizer Kahran Myers of the group Faith in Public Life led off a series of speakers.
"We are gathered here, in no uncertain terms, to unequivocally condemn hatred. We are here to show our community that we love and support each other, and that we love and support this congregation," she said.
Overnight last Tuesday, someone spray-painted a phrase that refers to gay people as pedophiles on Wedgewood's front door. The word "pedophiles" was misspelled as "pedofhiles" - a fact noted by Matt Hirschy of Equality NC.
"I pray that they find spiritual abundance, above all. And I also hope they find, uh, the ability to spell correctly," Hirschy said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Church leaders think it was the rainbow door that caught the slogan-painter's attention - the rainbow flag is a symbol for LGBT rights. It happened hours after the Charlotte Mecklenburg School board voted to extend its diversity policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Reverend Rodney Sadler of Mecklenburg Ministries prayed for the vandal or vandals.
"We pray for their hearts. We pray for their souls. May they find the love that you have for each of us. May they repent, and may they at some point in the future stand with us, to bear witness to the wonder of a god who loves us all," said Sadler.
Wedgewood Church has about 80 members, and leaders say it's diverse. About half are LGBT people, and half are African American.
"The vandalism of the church, I mean we’re going to paint over that. Yes it does have an impact on us and making us be more careful about security. But the larger issue is what's happening in society."
An online fundraising campaign last week brought in $6,500, which Ayers says will go in part toward improved security. In addition, someone has donated a video security system, too. So next time the church gets hit, they'll have it on tape.
Police are investigating the incident, and have increased patrols around Wedgewood. They're asking anyone who may have seen the vandalism to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.