As I pulled into the driveway to church on Sunday, I noticed that our “Black Lives Matter” sign was missing from the wayside pulpit. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that the sign had been ripped down as I found the clips used to hold it in place on the ground. It was the third act of vandalism at the church in 3 days.
After the service, we held the annual Town Hall meeting where folks go over the proposed budget and other items that will be voted on at the congregational meeting in May. It is the time to ask questions or raised concerns.
In September, I had preached a sermon on why “Black Lives Matters” and no that is not a typo. In it, I stated that I had put the BLM sign up and it was up to the congregation to decide if it is to stay up or come down. After the service around 50 folks sat at tables and talked about BLM. I offered a 9-week course using the book Witnessing Whiteness and out of that an ongoing group is meeting once a month. The Rev. Meg Riley preached movingly about her and her child’s involvement and support of BLM.
At the last Board meeting, I asked that the issue of the sign staying up or coming down come before the congregation for a vote. For me it is about honoring my commitment to the congregation to have them make a choice. At the Town Hall, the question was asked, “How long will the sign stay up?” I wish I could have answered saying that racism will end or that racial justice in this country has been served. But neither of those things has been realized. Frankly, I doubt they ever will. But what that means for me, as a person of faith is that I will continue insisting that the lives of people of color matter- sign or no sign.
The reminder that Black Lives don’t seem to matter was brought home Monday morning when Grace Simons texted me asking if we were going to respond to the acts of vandalism committed over the weekend at the Curry Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal (a traditionally Black church) in the central district of Seattle. The vandals spray painted “Go back to Africa,” swastikas and “N.” They also ransacked the church office. Someone has already started a “Go Fund Me” account with the goal of $5000 toward repairs (donate here). A rally will be held at the church this weekend and there are numerous offers to come help and paint posted on the church’s Facebook page.
Seeing pictures of some of the elders sitting in the church sanctuary with the graffiti in the background was profoundly disturbing. For centuries, the Black church in this country has been the only place that granted Black men authority, dignity, and respect in their role as pastor. In fact, it was nearly the only leadership role that whites allowed Black men. And the Black church has historically been the place not only of refuge and safety but of sustenance, inspiration, and liberation. To vandalize Black churches is to vandalize the hearts and spirits of Black congregants.
I wrote on the church’s Facebook page that such an act of vandalism to one community is an affront to all communities of faith. We may or may not be asked to come armed with paint and paintbrushes. Or to come with our hearts open to stand with and alongside as witnesses not just to injustice but to love. May we all respond.
Black Lives Matter.
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,