Errant golf balls can often be found in the Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church parking lot, according to the Rev. Bonnie Wilcox. But it's believed that the one found Saturday with an anti-gay slur written on it wasn't just a misplayed shot.

The St. Paul church was celebrating the installation of a gay pastor when the ball with the offensive language flew through the back window of a car parked outside.

The church, which is on the St. Paul-Maplewood border, sits across from the Phalen Park Golf Course. "At first, we wondered if somebody had just hit a ball across the street," Wilcox said. "But with the angle it hit the window, it's unlikely it had anything to do with the golf course."

St. Paul police are looking into the incident and will decide whether to classify it as a hate crime.

About 150 people were attending Saturday's service for the Rev. Anita Hill, who was commissioned to lead a ministry called Reconciling Works, an advocacy group that works on behalf of people of all races and sexual orientation in the church. A man leaving the event discovered the damaged car and the golf ball inside.

"I am saddened by the property damage and problems that occurred in the parking lot," Hill wrote on her Facebook page. "I want the person(s) who did this to know that God loves them and I love them, and there is nothing they can do about that."

Hill's installation was held at Gustavus Adolphus because Reconciling Works will begin renting space in the church this fall. Several other ministries, including a Hmong Baptist congregation, a Latino Pentecostal church and an outreach ministry to Karen immigrants from southeastern Asia, also use the building at 1669 Arcade St.

Even though the act didn't appear to target her congregation, Wilcox called it disconcerting and disappointing.

"Last Sunday we as a nation were shocked and saddened by the attack on the Sikh temple in Milwaukee," Wilcox said. "We also have been a victim of vandalism and a hate crime."

On Sunday, she offered prayers for the victims of crime and violence, as well as for those who commit crimes. She also encouraged her flock to continue to stand up for those who face injustice and are oppressed.

"People are saddened that this would happen to guests in our building," Wilcox said. "No one deserves to be treated that way."

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib