The West Dover Congregational Church, United Church of Christ’s “God is Still Speaking” banner was destroyed sometime between 9 pm on Saturday, October 28, and 7 am, Sunday, October 29. It appears as though it was slashed with a knife. I discovered the damage when I arrived at the church just after 7 am on Sunday morning.
The rainbow flag signifies churches in the United Church of Christ that are “Open and Affirming,” a designation promoting the church’s full acceptance of all people including ethnic and racial minorities, lgbtq people, and people of different abilities.
The rainbow banner is commonly understood as a symbol promoting diversity and acceptance. This incident comes amidst an increase in incidences of hate speech and vandalism nationally since November 2016.
The church community is responding by reaffirming its identity as a diverse community committed to loving God through loving and supporting all of God’s diverse creation. West Dover Congregational Church is known locally as a vibrant place of worship and for its service to the wider community through the Food for Kids program, support of the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry, Habitat for Humanity, Scouts, local recovery groups, and social programming for seniors. The church plans on replacing the banner.
In a statement, the Church Deacons to anyone who feels directly threatened by this act of intimidation said: “We, the community of West Dover Congregational Church, UCC have your back. We are blessed to call you neighbors. Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome in our church and in our Twin Valley community.:
To the person or people who destroyed our “God Is Still Speaking” sign: Our love is greater than your hate. The message of love that God has called this community of Christians to witness to the world will be emboldened by your actions. We are proud to be an open and affirming congregation who is blessed to experience God through the diversity of people in our community. This includes racial and ethnic minorities, people of different ages and abilities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folks who bless us with their presence in our church and in our greater community. It is heartbreaking to think that your identity and false sense of security relies on shutting yourself off from these beloved people. You are missing out. Each Sunday, we gather to share the Gospel which means “Good News.” It is good news for you and for all of us that God’s love is given freely, no matter what we have done or not done. Come join us. See why we love church and experience the joy of a love that even death (and certainly ripped vinyl) cannot contain. You are in our prayers.
A message for people wanting to show support: I recommend that people wanting to show support consider attending next Sunday’s service at 10 am and also consider contributing to Green Mountain Crossroads, a Brattleboro based organization that connects rural LGBTQ people to build community, visibility, knowledge, and power.
Pastor Jeremy Kirk