Members of Hollywood United Methodist Church got a delightful surprise Sunday morning when Reverend Kathy Cooper-Ledesma unveiled a brand new marriage equality banner to replace the one that was vandalized last week—and the new banner takes direct aim at the people who damaged the original one.
“Dear vandals: You can cut the word ‘equality’ out of our banner, but you can’t cut the message out of our church,” reads the new banner. And it continues, “We will always support marriage equality.”
As Patch reported, an unknown person or group cut the word ‘equality’ from a banner hanging at the corner of Highland and Franklin avenues last Sunday night. The banner was removed on Tuesday and displayed inside the church sanctuary for Sunday’s service, where about 250 people were in attendance.
Church officials believe the act of vandalism was deliberately planned because the damaged section of the banner was out of reach from the sidewalk—at least nine feet above the ground.
By the end of Sunday’s service, church employees had already hung the new 12-foot, bright green banner in the same place the vandalized banner had hung. As church members exited, many stopped to take a look at the new banner and some were surprised by how fast the banner was replaced.
“I first heard about the incident on Facebook last week,” said Bryan Zilar of West Hollywood. “Then I read somewhere that the banner was going to be replaced, but I didn’t know it was going to happen so quickly.”
On the way to their car, a couple stopped to look at the new banner.
“We think it’s great. We’re married and we completely support marriage equality,” said Casey Bloys of Laurel Canyon, who attended the Sunday service with his husband, Alonzo Wickers, and their two twin children.
Prior to the unveiling, much of Sunday’s service revolved around the emotions about what happened to the banner. Rev. Cooper-Ledesma asked her congregation to not be angry with the vandals for what they did, but asked them to forgive.
“We put those banners up because we believe love is stronger than hatred,” Cooper-Ledesma told the congregation. “We’re not trying to change people’s minds about marriage equality, we’re trying to change their hearts.”
Although the general attitude around the church on Sunday was one of forgiveness, some members were still somewhat upset by what happened.
“I thought it was really sad, especially in such a liberal place like Hollywood,” said Tim Baudler, the head usher at the church and a West Hollywood resident. “It’s really sad that there are still so many people who are closed minded and don’t really know what the love of God is truly about.”
The unveiling of the new banner was met by a thunderous standing ovation from the congregation.
“I like the new banner,” said David of Hollywood, who didn't want to give his last name. “I think it’s appropriate. In the end, what happened did more good than harm because it really got our message out to a lot of people. It actually worked against the vandals.”
Cooper-Ledesma agreed with that sentiment, and feels the church is even stronger after the vandalism attack.
“Vandals can try and hurt us,” Cooper-Ledesma told Patch just after the service ended. “But they’re not going to because we believe in the power of love over evil. We simply pray for them.”
Church officials still have very few clues about the people or person responsible for last week’s act of vandalism, but they ask anyone with any information to contact the church at 323-874-2104.