An act of vandalism has members of two rural houses of worship wondering who would do such a thing, while church leaders demand the return of two crowns used in traditional Orthodox wedding services.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Trinity and Romanian Orthodox St. Elias Churches in Lennard, Man., about 20 kilometers east of the Saskatchewan border near the northern part of Riding Mountain National Park, were hit by vandals, causing they are suspected to be fire extinguishers.
The damage included the theft of the gold crowns many have worn as part of wedding ceremonies, including St. Elijah President Corey Leclerc and his wife of 25 years ago during their ceremony.
“It’s heartbreaking, heartbreaking,” Leclerc said on Tuesday.
“Last night we were looking through our wedding album to see some photos of these crowns, but we also remember all the people before us who have worn those crowns… the ones who won’t get a chance to wear those crowns again if we can’t locate them. “
Russell RCMP received a report Saturday morning about a break-in and vandalism at the two churches, as well as the theft of the wreaths, said RCMP Sgt. Paul Manaigre said in an email on Tuesday.
A film of white powder, believed to come from fire extinguishers, covers the red carpeted floor, furniture and religious artwork in both churches.
“I couldn’t believe the whole church was covered,” said Barry Sawchuk, vice president of St. Elijah’s. “There is not an inch of space that is not covered.”
Don Kobluk, an elder at Holy Trinity, was surprised to find a similar scene in his church.
He was driving by the church on Saturday and noticed that the door and a gate were ajar. She stepped inside to take a closer look.
“I didn’t know what happened… I was stunned,” Kobluk said. “Everything was white. Our carpet in the church is red, but it was white and I couldn’t figure out what the hell happened here.”
Kobluk said there was a fire extinguisher in the church and he suspects it was used.
Icons, cabinets and more were left with a layer of dust similar to what Sawchuk found at St. Elijah’s.
“I can’t believe a person or people could do something like that,” said Kobluk, who has been a member of Holy Trinity for about five decades.
He’s not sure how they’ll clean up the mess, particularly on the 40-year-old iconography of Vera Senchuk, a prominent Winnipeg iconographer who has since worked in churches across Canada and beyond.
Sawchuk suspects the incident will disrupt planned services at St. Elijah’s in the coming days.
“A lot of work will be needed to restore the church,” he said.
“It’s just bad,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of members and they all get older and try to do the best they can to keep the church going, and something like this happens.”
Leclerc said the crowns are identical and have red, purple and blue jewels on the sides.
Ask whoever has the wreaths to drop them off at a local police station, store, or anywhere they can return them to the church.
“Anyone who has acquired them would have a hard time selling them or getting anything for them simply because of their uniqueness,” he said.
“They are invaluable to our Orthodox church community and to the people attached to our church… Just bring them back.”
The RCMP continues to investigate.
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