Passersby may have noticed an eye-catching, rainbow-colored banner hanging over the entrance to the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in Frederick the last few months.
Hanging between two columns atop the church’s front stairway, the sign reads “God is still speaking,” and, along with the rainbow colors, black and brown stripes line the top of the banner to show the congregation’s acceptance of not only the LGBTQ community, but also the Black Lives Matter movement, said Senior Pastor Barbara Kershner Daniel.
Still, keeping the banner in place has proved to be a challenge since June, when the original $150 print was torn down from the columns and taken by unknown vandals, Daniel said.
“It had been hanging up there for months and then one day in June the banner was just gone; stolen. So I posted about it on Facebook and almost right away Custom Imprints on Fourth Street contacted us and offered to replace the banner, free of charge,” Daniel said.
While police have yet to identify any suspects in the case to question, Daniel said she is fairly certain the inclusive nature of the banner, signifying the church’s openness as a safe space for all, was what made it a target.
“I think the person or the persons who are disturbed by this is reacting to a symbol that our church is in support of all people,” Daniel said. “We want to be a safe place for people to gather, especially in difficult and challenging times.”
Daniel and the congregation was very thankful to the printing business, which had a new banner ready to hang up a short time later, on July 2, but the church was soon to find its ordeal wasn’t over, the pastor said.
Waking up Friday, Daniel said she had a bad feeling when she noticed one of her own yards signs, as well as a Black Lives Matter sign posted in her neighbor’s yard, had been torn up and destroyed. Fearing the worst, Daniel made her way to the church at 15 W. Church St. only to find the banner once again missing.
Police were called again to document the case, but few details could be shared as of Friday as the case was still open, said acting Sgt. Kacie Strong, a Frederick police supervisor.
“I know in the previous incident in June we checked the area for cameras, like if anybody had any surveillance, but we didn’t get any evidentiary value from that,” Strong said Friday afternoon. “But certainly if someone between now and June has installed any devices, if they want to check them, they can always give us a call if they happen to find anything.”
The community remained supportive of the church. Shortly after posting a new Facebook update about the second banner’s disappearance, Daniel was on the phone to order another replacement banner from Custom Imprints, only to be told the business had already seen the Facebook post and was busy printing a new banner. Custom Imprints also told Daniel they would print as many banners as the church needs, all for free, Daniel said.
“We try to help the community, and if it’s a good cause, especially,” said Jean-Louis Lepage, a co-owner of Custom Imprints. “ ... It’s really a shame; there’s apparently some people out there who cannot stand other people having an opinion and it’s just terrible.”