Pastor: Love is best response to destruction

By Tonya Garner: Freedom Newspapers

Boarded up windows and remnants of spray paint mar the facade of the Llano Estacado Metropolitan Community Church.

Located on Fourth Street in downtown Clovis, the church has been vandalized twice in the last two weeks, according to church officials and police. Church members fear their lifestyle has attracted the destruction.

Christopher George serves as pastor for the nondenominational church whose members are primarily gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual. The church previously called Portales home, but moved to its present location in April due to a lack of space in its previous building.

George said members of the congregation are scared, saddened and angered by the recent events.

George said he addressed the emotions of the congregation during his sermon Sunday morning by letting them know he was also experiencing negative emotions due to the vandalism. George said he preached a message of love and urged the congregation not to have any hate in their hearts.

“I told my congregation that we would act in love rather than react in hate,” he said.

George said he believes the church was targeted by “teenagers on a rampage” but fears the congregation’s makeup was at the root of the vandalism.

No other buildings in the area were vandalized, he said.

Clovis police on Thursday found two broken windows located to the east and west of the front door of the building. The east window was broken by a dirt clod while the west window was damaged by the cover of a water meter, according to a police report.

The police report also noted the previous damage caused by graffiti two weeks previously. According to the report, derogatory words aimed at homosexuals were spray painted across the front of the building. The responding officer also reported burglary was not the motive since no entry to the building was attempted.

Tino Cordova, ordained deacon, said church officials are assuming the damage was done by children or teens because words were misspelled. Cordova also said there were several anti-gay symbols spray painted that only kids would use.

Although the actual slur words that were painted are no longer legible, there are still faint outlines apparent on the building even after numerous cleanings.

“We tried to clean it up,” Cordova said. “But we had to send our banner in for repair since it is missing letters now.”

According to the police report, there are no suspects in the incident.

Cordova said the church is having a security camera installed.

“I won’t pastor a church that is hiding behind boards and barbed wire,” George said.

Cordova said the congregation does not want to be known as “the gay church.” He said everyone from all backgrounds including different religions is welcome.

The pastor and the deacon said the acts of vandalism won’t deter them.

“We are staying in Clovis,” George said.

“We are just a little old Christian church,” Cordova said. “We are not here to harm anyone.”