As Holy Week approached, vandal spray painted rainbow symbols at LGBTQ+ welcoming church in Brookfield. | Provided

For the second time in the past six months, Holy Covenant Metropolitan Community Church, 9145 Grant Ave. in Brookfield, has been targeted by those opposed to the congregation’s inclusive philosophy, which embraces the LGBTQ+ community.

In the more recent incident, which occurred overnight on March 30-31, someone used blue spray paint to deface a sign in the Maple Avenue side yard and the front stairs and door of the church.

The person who defaced the property specifically took pains to overpaint symbols identifying Holy Covenant as a church welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. The front stair risers had been painted about two years ago to create a rainbow of colors leading to the front door, where the rainbow reference was again repeated.

The sign in the side yard had featured a stylized rainbow cross. The vandal spray painted over that cross and then painted on blue crosses on either side of where the rainbow cross had been.

Last October, someone left a laser-printed flyer on the church doors calling the church’s teachings “an ABOMINATION to God” and stating, “homosexuality is a SIN and has no place in the body of Christ!” 

The Rev. Martha Daniels, pastor of Holy Covenant Church in Brookfield, says congregation members will repaint the vandalized front steps and door sometime this spring. It’s the second time the church, which serves a predominantly LGBTQ+ congregation, has been targeted by homophobes. | Bob Uphues/Editor

The flyer wrapped up with what could be construed as a veiled threat, offered as a “message” from Jesus, quoting the Book of Mark in the New Testament:

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

The flyer also had been posted on the doors of at least two churches in LaGrange, according to Brookfield police, and Holy Covenant’s pastor, the Rev. Martha Daniels said the flyer cast a pall.

“Since we had the flyers put up in the fall, I no longer stay here by myself after dark,” said Daniels during an interview at the church last week.

While the church does have a Ring doorbell on the back entrance of the church, it did not activate for either incident, and neither incident was captured by security cameras elsewhere in the neighborhood, according to police.

In the wake of the front stairs and door being vandalized, Daniels said a security camera is being installed at the front of the property and she’s looking at putting another security camera toward the rear of the property.

The incidents, which clearly targeted the church’s mission to serve the LGBTQ+ community, have also led to Daniels giving tips to church ushers to keep the alert for any potential threats on Sundays when the church hosts services.

“It’s a tough balance between being welcoming and being safe,” Daniels said.

In the wake of the vandalism, the head of the Metropolitan Community Church worldwide, the Rev. Elder Cecilia Eggleston, decried the vandalism, but reinforced Daniels’ message, which she posted to the Brookfield Connections Facebook community group last week, that the church would not be intimidated.

“It is profoundly sad that someone would take the time and effort to deface the steps and sign of Holy Covenant MCC — a place where all God’s people are welcome to worship,” Eggleston said in an email sent April 7. “Scripture tells us that the rainbow is a sign of the relationship between God and all creation, including all God’s people. I know that this damage will simply strengthen the resolve of Rev. Martha Daniels and the congregation of Holy Covenant MCC to bring hope, joy and justice to the community that they serve.”

Brookfield Police Chief Michael Kuruvilla said that detectives have canvassed the neighborhood for any witnesses and security camera video, but those efforts haven’t resulted in anything of value, and police said they don’t know if the October and March incidents are related or whether the same person is responsible.

“We’re still working to identify a suspect,” Kuruvilla said. “Until we do that, I can’t definitively state anything.”

Brookfield police have placed a special watch on the church property, Kuruvilla confirmed, with officers patrolling that neighborhood more often.

If police do end up making an arrest in the vandalism case, Kuruvilla said he would refer it to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to see whether it might be classified as a hate crime.

“We would ask the state’s attorney to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” Kuruvilla said.

The front stairs and door will be repainted sometime in the next month or so as the weather improves, said Daniels, and the sign for the side yard will be replaced.

In the meantime, Daniels said the church has received an outpouring of support from well-wishers online, many of whom have volunteered to help restore the rainbow paint scheme to the front entryway. Others have donated money to the congregation.

Holy Covenant MCC has occupied the modest white frame church at the corner of Grant and Maple avenues since 2001 and serves a small congregation of principally LGBTQ+ members but is open to anyone. Active members range in age from teens to older adults and hail from places as far away as Aurora and Hoffman Estates. 

Daniels, an Indiana native, has been pastor at Holy Covenant for nearly seven years, returning to her Midwestern roots after leading an MCC congregation in Windsor, Ontario for 11 years.

Around 2010, as issues such as gay marriage began to rapidly mainstream, Daniels said she and other MCC and other welcoming church leaders wondered if such congregations would continue to be needed.

“There was a lot of conversation … of what are going to do? Is there still work for us to do or are we winding things up?” she said. “And we soon found out that, no, we are still needed.”