As a resident of Fitchburg and a pastor serving the Memorial United Church of Christ, the article posted on Channel 3000, “Handwritten signs that say ‘White Power’ and ‘KKK’ placed at Fitchburg Homes, police say,” Sunday, September 6 made me pause.
The sermon I had prepared for that morning, Love Summed Up, was rooted on words from the apostle Paul, “The commandments… are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9).
This is not the first-time hateful messages have been found along Lacy Road in Fitchburg. Our church is located on Lacy Road, and a few weeks ago (July 21) I arrived at our church to find a sign placed near the sidewalk close to our We Are Many United Against Hate (UAH) signs and rainbow flag. The small red and white sign pointed towards the church with the words “wrong way” written on it.
Memorial UCC is an Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation within the UCC, welcoming all persons into Christian fellowship explicitly welcoming to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. One of the community partnerships we have is with We Are Many United Against Hate. I write today because sharing our stories is an important step in getting to know each other, building relationships, and beginning the process of healing in these divisive times. Remaining silent is not an option.
The time is now — and it is past the time — for our communities to have caring conversations around systemic injustices and false ideologies of white supremacy, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. As a congregation whose mission statement is “reaching out in ever-widening circles,” we are continually looking for ways in which we can engage in respectful and compassionate dialogue with our community.
I invite community and faith leaders in Fitchburg to join with me in addressing the economic and racial disparities which contribute to the divisions our city is experiencing. Showing up for our neighbors and telling our stories is a vital step.
In these challenging days love always overcomes fear.
Rev. Kris Gorton