On Sunday afternoon, August 27th the Black Lives Matter sign displayed by our church, Govans Presbyterian, was vandalized. The banner had been vandalized once before and lovingly repaired by a church member. We recently had our Pride Flag stolen as well. Other churches in the area displaying similar messages of love and diversity affirming symbols have had similar acts of vandalism. We live in a society in which values are communicated in images, symbols, and sound bytes. As a church which seeks to follow the teachings and example of Jesus, we use these tools to communicate his message of solidarity with the marginalized. Acts of vandalism like this one demonstrate that such messages are powerful tools. Though the messages may disturb some, they comfort and inspire others. Jesus had this effect on people. So we will continue to put up signs and banners which communicate that we stand with those who are treated unfairly in our society. Black lives matter. Protect trans lives. Love is love.
At the same time, we will remember that banners and flags are only one way we communicate our message affirming the God given worth of every person. We also communicate (and yes, preach) that message in how we live as a church. So despite such acts of vandalism, we will continue to examine our own souls for harmful racists and heteronormative beliefs. We will continue to ask God to help us root out those unconscious biases which interfere with our ability to love our neighbor as ourselves. We will continue to study the way Jesus stood up to the powerful who sought to increase their power at the expense of the marginalized. We will continue to examine our own complicity in the historical and present-day structural racism which defines our city, our nation, and our church. We will continue to follow carefully crafted policies that help us avoid hiring decisions tainted by racism. We will continue to lift up the intellectual, musical, political, and religious contributions of people of color and LGBTQ people who have too long been silenced. We will continue to create a community farm on our property with the express purpose of healing the racial segregation that defines Baltimore City. This part of our work is who we are and who we aspire to be. It cannot be torn down by one misguided individual. This part of our message cannot be stolen from us and it cannot be silenced. It is the way we follow Jesus. It is what makes us Christian. – Pastor Tom