Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle Defaced by Political Graffiti
On the morning of Tuesday, January 21, 2020, the community of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, discovered that the cathedral building had been vandalized with a large spray-painted ugly message. The Dean of Saint Mark’s, The Very Rev. Steven L. Thomason, responded both to the vandalism and to the divisiveness in our society at this time, saying, “I find myself prayerful—for those whose lives are filled with such hatred that they can justify desecrating a church, for this community that we might bring the fullness of our hearts and souls into this call to be the Body of Christ (even when some in the world choose to hate us), and for this nation whose political discourse seems to condone acts such as this vandalism as justifiable in the course of partisan disagreements.” (See his full statement below.)
Dean Thomason’s Statement to the community (January 21, 2020):
I write today to share the sad news that the cathedral façade was vandalized during the night.
The photo below shows the message, which is clearly intended to incite us to some similar reaction of negativity and anger, but those are not the emotions I feel on seeing their message. I am saddened by their destructive impulse, which will cause us to clean the surface and repaint it at considerable expense. I find myself grateful that their message did not target a group of individuals based on race, orientation, or identity, using derogatory terms for injurious purposes. In the hours since seeing this early this morning, I find myself prayerful—for those whose lives are filled with such hatred that they can justify desecrating a church, for this community that we might bring the fullness of our hearts and souls into this call to be the Body of Christ (even when some in the world choose to hate us), and for this nation whose political discourse seems to condone acts such as this vandalism as justifiable in the course of partisan disagreements. And if I am honest, I am a bit amused by the graffiti—as if the perpetrators think they will have accomplished something by doing this. We are a community that holds a broad swath of political opinions, and we are the richer for that diversity. And I am hopeful, that their crime will only strengthen our resolve to be the Body of Christ in a broken, hurting world.
The irony is not lost on me that they did this on the heels of this nation’s annual observance of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his cause of non-violence and justice for all. We can debate how best to engage that work, but we cannot conclude that the work of civil rights is complete. As the prophet Amos said, and Dr. King wrote from his cell in the Birmingham jail: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” We have work to do, my friends, in the cause of justice. Let us do so in God’s name, with courage and faithfulness, and let us remember that that arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I am,
Your Brother in Christ,
The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason, Dean and Rector
UPDATE #1 (January 26, 2020)
Because the graffiti on our building cannot be painted over until the weather is dry and warmer, for the time being the graffiti will be concealed by a large banner with the words "LOVE WINS." (This banner was last used in the nave in March of 2014, for the Compassionate Communities Conference featuring author Karen Armstrong.)
UPDATE #2 (February 7, 2020)
A message from Dean Thomason—More Vandalism at Saint Mark's
Sadly, the vandals struck twice more this week, spraying the front sign Tuesday night and then last night spraying a hateful message on the cathedral’s front doors with metallic paint (see image below). These are the doors where since December 2016 we have posted the Renewing Our Covenant statements on posters. We believe all three incidents are related, and this represents an escalation. We also discovered someone accessed the organ gallery this week and distorted all the light board settings, requiring considerable time to reprogram. We do not know that this is related, but I have conferred this morning with the Senior Warden, the Director of Operations and Facilities Manager, and we all agree that additional steps are necessary at this point, at least temporarily, while we sort this out and take steps to minimize risk of further vandalism. These steps include the following:
- We have filed a third police report and a petition for the Seattle Police Dept to address this. The police cannot investigate every incident of property damage, but this seems more significant than typical "tagging."
- Jim Pannell, Director of Operations, continues to work diligently to identify the optimal security system, as authorized by the Vestry (cathedral leadership board) last month. We will have more to report at tomorrow’s Vestry retreat, and hope to have that installed very soon. This will not likely prevent all vandalism, but we hope it will discourage it.
- The code to the organ gallery door will change. Canon for Cathedral Music Michael Kleinschmidt will communicate the new code on a “need to know” basis.
- As of this morning, we have locked the front doors of the cathedral, except when Front Door ministry staff are present (M–F, 1–3 p.m.). When the Front Door Ministry is not present, signs will direct people to the church office for access to the nave during open office hours (9 a.m.–4:30 p.m.). Outside of open office hours, people will need to have key access or door monitors to let people in. We hope this is a temporary move, and one I take responsibility for, as we sort out additional measures. I am happy to discuss this with anyone who disagrees with this measure.
The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
About Saint Mark’s: Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral strives to be: a house of prayer for all people, where we worship God and proclaim the reconciling Gospel of Jesus Christ; a loving, welcoming, inclusive community that nurtures faith, encourages service, and integrates social and environmental justice into our lives; a sacred gathering place for the Diocese of Olympia and the broader community in times of crisis, sorrow, and celebration. More at www.saintmarks.org.
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