EDMONDS — More than 300 people gathered at Edmonds Methodist Church on Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil in response to hateful pamphlets dropped on cars in the neighborhood — an incident that’s now being investigated as a possible hate crime.
White-haired women greeted patrons at the door, offering candles, rainbow-colored ribbons and programs for the “We Side With Love” community vigil.
“We can’t let hate scare us,” said Marilyn Siecke, 79, who has attended United Methodist for 11 years. “We don’t care what color, age, sex, orientation you are — you’re a child of God, and we love you.”
On the morning of April 16, Edmonds police were dispatched to the 800 block of Brookmere Drive — just down the street from the church — for a report of flyers that had been left on cars. The two-sided, full-color, plastic-covered pamphlets included “graphic photos involving genitalia,” swastikas, other hate symbols and political memes that targeted the LGBTQ+ community, Edmonds police Cmdr. Josh McClure said.
The flyers, McClure said, were “pretty heinous overall.”
Around the corner, flyers also littered hundreds of church-goers’ cars while members gathered for Sunday service. A pastor noticed the flyers and removed them before congregation members left the church. Police took the flyers and some “local camera” footage as evidence, McClure said, and also got a general suspect description.
“However, this week, the Seattle FBI office did let us know that they are having an active investigation into this incident and a similar one that occurred in Kirkland the following week,” McClure said.
A pastor from Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Kirkland, the second church targeted by the flyers, attended Tuesday’s vigil in solidarity — as did other community leaders: Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, state Sen. Manka Dhingra, among others. Seattle drag queen Luna DeLyte recited poetry and offered hope.
“Already 15 states have passed laws barring transgender kids from playing sports. … Three states have put in laws on the books to prevent trans kids from accessing care recommended by major medical associations,” the Edmonds mayor said. “Whether it is a hate-filled flyer, or a piece of legislation … we must rally against those who sneak around in the night leaving hateful messages, and we must stand up to those who — in the broad daylight — have been given a green light to demean, to dehumanize, to spread fear.”
Seated close to the altar, a woman cried softly throughout the vigil. She didn’t want to be named for safety reasons, but she said she cried for her transgender teenager who calls Edmonds home.
“It was a terrifying thing to have happen in our community,” she said. “We don’t know what the content was, but it involves children, and it was a very scary, dark moment — we felt very alone. It’s incredibly powerful to be here and realize we’re protected by the community, that we’re not alone.”
Extra folding chairs to accommodate the large crowd lined the service. Pride and transgender flags hung from the windows. Rainbow sheets covered the tables. Glass bowls held miniature Pride flags for the taking.
C0-pastor Rev. Ann Jacob donned a sequined jacket and rainbow clerical collar. Jacob said the United Methodist Church has a larger LGBTQ+ population than most churches, and they’re “unapologetically” committed to being affirming and welcoming.
A graduate of Yale’s Divinity School, Jacob is the church’s first pastor to identify as queer.
“We are a place of refuge and safety for the LGBTQIA+ community,” Jacob said. “To me, it’s a sign of progress to say we aren’t just a community that serves and welcomes (LGBTQIA+ people), but we want folks to be in leadership, too, serving.”
Jacob encouraged the audience to write messages of hope and love on the ribbons they’d been given at the door. Following the vigil, church leadership would tie the ribbons to the trees lining Caspers Street. Jacob said the ribbons will “blow in the wind and offer a message of hope” to those passing by.
Toward the end of the service, pews groaned as the congregation rose with lighted candles in hand. People leaned into one another, offering what consolation they could as the choir sang the African American spiritual “We Shall Overcome” and “We Resist.”
“We will not shrink back or cower in fear,” Jacob said. “We are people who side with love.”