Free hugs attracts controversy from within church

Christian strangers

After being denied from offering hugs to strangers at three malls, a church youth group finally found a spot where they weren’t kicked out of.

Beth Walker, Minister at the Cordova Bay United Church, accompanied 15 teens from her congregation along with St. Aidan’s, as they shared hugs and conversation with visitors to the Inner Harbour June 11. The event was well-received by passersby, yet the idea of young people offering hugs is not without controversy.

“Even within the church, some people think it’s OK and some people think it’s risky behaviour,” Walker said.

Following initial coverage in the *Saanich News of the youth group’s attempt at a free hugs event in Mayfair Shopping Centre, Walker was contacted by the head office of the Cordova Bay United Church.

Someone within the church locally had read the story and reported Walker for “risky behaviour.” Walker wasn’t reprimanded for leading the event, but the complaint was taken seriously.

“I think it’s more of a reflection on the culture that we live in, rather than the church,” she said, explaining that social networking is causing virtual friendships to replace real ones.