If the Rev. Scott Trevithick could speak to the person who stole the Pride flag from the lawn of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in downtown Reno and left a threatening sign, he would begin by listening.
“I would want to understand what they were thinking and I would want to hear (about) the anxiety or the fear behind some of the connections that they seem to make,” Trevithick said. “What is their problem with the Pride flag and what is the difficulty of displaying it next to a cross? Why does this (flag) seem to threaten you or cause you anxiety or fear?”
On the last Saturday in January, the church’s cleaning crew arrived to discover that the LGBTQ+ Pride flag that had been flying in front of the church for five days had been stolen and a hand-printed sign – reading “Keep your rag away from the cross or else. American flag only” – had been left in its place.
“I would want to have a conversation with whoever did that,” Trevithick said. “If I said anything, it would be about God. The God who we know in Jesus is a God of love, and that’s what folks from Good Shepherd and I as pastor want to affirm.”
The Pride flag flew as a symbol of the church celebrating its mission as a “Reconciling in Christ” congregation, which is open and affirming of those who are LGBTQ+ and everyone else who enters its doors. “This is a place where you are welcome to celebrate and grieve, to rejoice and recover,” Trevithick said. “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”
The rainbow flag flies at the church on other occasions, including during the annual Northern Nevada Pride Parade. The church also has hosted annual prayer services to remember the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in 2016. The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd is among the more than 20 churches, synagogues and fellowships that belong to NiCE, the Nevada Interfaith Coalition for Equality & Inclusion.
Rev. Sean Savoy, the founder and director of NiCE, said the vandalism at the church is a reminder that hate is part of our community, whether residents see it or not. “People often live in their own bubbles and may feel like everyone is as welcoming and affirming (to LGBTQ+ people) as they are, but hate is out there and it’s gotten worse in our current political climate.”
Savoy said it’s not enough for people to lament such incidents. “Stand up for friends who need help,” he said. “Don’t remain silent when you hear hate speech… Do we believe in having a city that is welcoming and affirming? If we do, we shouldn’t tolerate such things.”
Trevithick said the special service went on as planned the day after the flag was stolen. The incident, he said, underlines the importance of welcoming all people into God’s house and following Christ’s example of love.
“We’re repairing the staff,” Trevithick said. “The Pride flag will be flying again.”
Let me say this first: I do not hate any group of people. To me hate is a very strong expression. That being said, I find it uncomfortable that a church (I am an ELCA member) claiming to be ‘all inclusive’ no matter your lifestyle, would feel the need to hang a flag that specifically identifies one group. Those that are not part of gay pride feel discriminated against. It would show solidarity to fly the ELCA flag or American flag. It really comes down to who meets/greets you when you walk in the door.
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