BILLINGS — Following a mass shooting at a nightclub in Colorado Springs, CO LGBTQ+ community members and allies are on high alert for threats.
Grace United Methodist Church on 1935 Ave. B is a known, all-inclusive safe space in Billings. Rainbow Coffee House is a weekly group meet-up in the church's basement that aims to provide resources and a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and allies.
The church was vandalized on Saturday evening, prompting some to wonder if the church was targeted for its support of the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s hard to say whether it’s targeted or not. But it’s not hard to clearly identify that we have to respond differently than other people do, because of the community that we serve here at Grace United Methodist Church,” explained Pastor Sam Beaves-Fisher on Tuesday.
A Billings police spokesperson tells MTN News there were three other reported vandalisms in the area on Saturday evening, so it is unlikely the church was targeted for any specific reason.
The church is located near Rose Park Elementary, where a series of vandalisms were reported in October involving broken windows.
“Grace has a history of being vandalized for our statements about inclusion," explains Beaves-Fisher. "So for our community, it isn’t that shocking. However it’s hard, it hits differently."
Beaves-Fisher says that events like this have a much larger impact on the LGBTQ+ community than other communities, as members already feel a lack of safe spaces in everyday life. He also says that even if the church wasn't targeted for any specific reason, it is still unsettling.
“It does burden our emotional well-being significantly. It makes us think about, is it safe to sit in our pews on Sunday? What do we need to do to protect these kids?” Beaves-Fisher says.
So far, police have not said if they have any suspects. A police report has been filed, and Beaves-Fisher thanked the Billings Police Department for its timely response to the situation.
“Grace United Methodist Church is committed to standing in this tension. We know that by preaching an inclusive message and a theology that’s different than the mainstream culture in this area, that there’s going to be resistance, and we know that that’s not easy," says Beaves-Fisher. “We know that addressing these issues is multi-faceted. It’s education, it’s violence, it’s policing, it’s understanding the facts and truly working together as a community to do the best we can."