London

London street preachers charged with criminal mischief after allegedly disturbing Sunday service

Two London men known for preaching on city streets have been charged with criminal mischief after allegedly disturbing a church service on Sunday. 

Police say 2 men disturbed a church service Sunday by yelling at women

London street preachers Steven Ravbar, left, and Matthew Carapella were already facing charges under the city's public nuisance bylaw. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Two London men known for preaching on city streets are facing criminal mischief charges after allegedly disturbing a church service on Sunday. 

Police say two men entered a church on Elmwood Avenue and began yelling at female parishioners and disturbing the service. 

"I was accused of being an imposter and an actor, and there were some words that were derogatory also about women and hair," said Andrew Fullerton, minister at Elmwood Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Fullerton said he immediately left his place at the lectern, and told the men they were breaking the law by disturbing public worship and needed to leave.

He said he refused to debate with the men, and told them they couldn't stay in the church while they were causing a commotion.

"I felt a little bit as a shepherd protecting the sheep," said Fullerton, who added that he directed a parishioner to call police, but that the men left before officers arrived.

The men were located and arrested at about 7 p.m. Sunday, according to London Police.

Police say Steven Ravbar, 50, and Matthew Anthony Carapella, 32 have been jointly charged with mischief relating to religious property, contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada.

'An escalation'

The preachers have also been asked to leave churches in the United States. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Ravbar and Carapella are often seen preaching on London streets and have been the subject of complaints from passersby — women in particular — who say the men often call them out for their appearance. 

Last year, the men were arrested and charged in the United States after a string of incidents where they entered churches and were asked to leave.

For Fullerton, the men's behaviour is "disturbing enough" when confined to public street corners, but seeing it inside a place of worship feels different.

"To cross the threshold of a sanctuary ... does feel like an escalation," he said. "Taking that behaviour to a higher degree and is therefore more troubling."

Still, Fullerton said he sees his parish as a public space, and has no immediate plans to bolster security or start screening visitors. 

Both Ravbar and Carapella are expected to appear in a London court on May 27.

The pair is also due in court next week to face charges under the city's public nuisance bylaw. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.