Rather than rush to paint over the 666 spray-painted on the Unitarian Church in Kelowna, the anti-Christ number was left for a week to spark debate.
“Although 666 is an apocalyptic number symbolizing The Beast and it’s a desecration of a sacred space, we didn’t want anyone getting too worked up about this,” said intern minister Rosemary Morrison.
“We decided to take the approach of: Well, that’s interesting. Let’s have a conversation about this. So, rather than paint it over immediately, we talked about it.”
That talk took place within the church community during the past week.
On Monday, the Unitarians issued a news release to introduce the conversation to the wider community.
The 666 spray-painted in black over the church’s 1310 Bertram St. address sign was discovered the morning of Aug. 20, when people started to show up for Sunday service.
That was the weekend of Kelowna’s Pride Festival, and the symbol of the church is rainbow colours around a chalice.
The rainbow is also the symbol of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community.
“Was someone so upset with Unitarians for being more tolerant and inclusive than most churches and really thinks we’re the anti-Christ, thus the 666?” asked Morrison.
“Do they really think Unitarian is the opposite of church, thus the 666?”
Morrison’s answer to her own questions isn’t that theologically complex.
“I just think it was a kid with a spray-paint can who thought it would be funny,” she said.
“We’ve now moved on. The 666 has now been painted over and we’ll get our address printed on that space right away again.”
The 666 incident also serves as Morrison’s introduction to the community.
She doesn’t officially take over as intern minister until Friday, but this issue thrust her into the spotlight.
Intern is a one-year position for a new Unitarian minister to help out at a church.
However, since the Kelowna church doesn’t have a minister right now, Morrison as intern is it.
She would regularly work in conjunction with the minister of the church, but since there isn’t one in Kelowna she is being mentored by an off-site supervisor, Karen Fraser Gitlitz of Saskatoon Unitarian.
“Because of my age and wisdom (Morrison comes to the job after 35 years in Kamloops and Victoria, working in a bank, as a social worker and a foster parent), the church felt I’d be fine with an off-site supervisor, who would also come and visit four times throughout the year,” said Morrison.
She graduated with a master of divinity from the Vancouver School of Theology, where she also won the Rev. Dr. Robert Robinson Morrison Prize in Homiletics (preaching).
The Unitarian Universalist faith is an age-old religion originating in Eastern Europe in the 16th century.
It’s always been a liberal faith drawing insight from science, all world religions and philosophies, and preaches inclusiveness, tolerance, social justice and equal rights.