The torching of St. Simon’s Anglican Church in Lynn Lake June 18 is a public outrage, no matter what the age or ages of the arsonists.
Likewise, the break-in and ransacking of the Thompson Salvation Army Thrift Store at 305 Thompson Drive N. a week earlier on June 11, while not a direct attack on the Thompson Salvation Army Corps’ adjacent place of worship, is nonetheless a grievous affront to a faith community that is known the world over for its work helping the most marginalized among us – prisoners, alcoholics, the poor and destitute, drug addicts – you get the idea. It’s a constituency not every church avidly courts.
Maj. Ronald Mailman, the soon-to-be-departing for Yorkton, Sask. Thompson Corps’ commander said, “At this time we are unsure when we will be able to reopen the Thrift Store as we have to repair and replace a number of items. We are asking our supporters who regularly donate their gently used items to please not drop them off at this time as we have nowhere presently to store them.” A window was smashed, clothes and bookshelves were thrown to the ground, and a fire extinguisher had been sprayed around the interior.
As for St. Simon’s Anglican Church in Lynn Lake, “All that was saved from the church is the bell, said Rev. Leslie-Elizabeth King, minister of St. John's United Church and Advent Lutheran Church in Thompson, who is also the pastor of St. Simon's Church, a shared ecumenical ministry of the United and Anglican Churches. King has been travelling to St. Simon six times a year since 1998 to administer the sacraments.
The good that follows the evil is that the vacation bible school that is run by the Lutheran Association of Missionary Pilots (LAMP) will be going ahead, she said. "The Roman Catholic congregation (St. Maria Goretti, a mission of St. Lawrence Church parish in Thompson) has offered the use of their newly renovated basement for that. The Continental Mission has offered the use of the Gospel Church for Sunday worship," said King. “The school has offered the use of their office and kitchen for all the church dinners the St. Simon's people are so good at preparing.
“There is a lot of work ahead for this small congregation and a lot of decisions to be made, but if I know one thing about Lynn Lakers, it is that work does not daunt them. They do a lot to help in the town and they will continue to do so, by the grace of God.”
Places of worship – be they a Jewish synagogue, Protestant or Catholic church, Sikh, Hindu or Buddhist temples, Muslim mosque – are all potent symbols of freedom of belief (or non-belief) and freedom of worship.
Last week, an Orthodox-Jewish neighbourhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. was defaced with Nazi swastikas in a half-dozen different spots – including on a synagogue, police said June 15.
On the very day St. Simon’s Anglican Church was put to the torch in Lynn Lake, the yellow-domed Grand Mosque of Jabaa, a West Bank Palestinian village about eight kilometres from both Jerusalem and Ramallah, was burned and vandalized in the fourth attack on a mosque in the area in the last 18 months, police said.
An attack on one faith community is an attack on all. That is why the searing memories of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday morning Sept. 15, 1963 at 10:22 a.m., in an act of racially-motivated terrorism against the African-American church and larger community, which killed four black girls – Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair – marked a turning point in the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – and why we remember it so vividly today almost 50 years later.