'Love Lives Here' signs will be part of 2023 Vigil
Veradale United Church of Christ's Love Is Greater Than Hate campaign began with a party July 3 when people joined in a meal and conversation as well as donating security cameras for the church. It now includes art, fall events and letters to political leaders.
Gen Heywood, the pastor, now pays closer attention to what is going on around the church, not wanting the church to become a fortress.
Inside and outside the church are hearts and signs saying, "Love." That was true before Sunday, June 25, when vandals took down the rainbow Pride flag, a Black Lives Matter flag, a flag with human rights messages, and several small Pride flags. A neighbor's video showed vandals running across the lawn, pouring diesel on it to kill the grass to write the phrase, Lev 2013.
Gen said that refers to Leviticus 20:13, an anti-gay passage used by some Christians. Her church is open and affirming, and many members are LGBTQ. The act is being investigated as a hate incident, she said.
With Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience (FLLC), which Gen convenes, and community outreach, Gen promotes ways for love to be greater than hate.
The Sunday after the vandalism, 103 people came to Veradale UCC for a Love Is Greater Than Hate Party. An anonymous donor replaced the three large flags, which were raised in a ceremony that ended the "Love Is Greater than Hate" party.
"Our plan was to have a different flag up each month," said Gen. "The one we have up now says, 'We strive to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves.' Another expresses the UCC three great loves: "Love neighbor, love children and love creation."
Temple Beth Shalom and Congregation Emanu-El responded immediately, just as Veradale UCC and FLLC responded to hate and graffiti at the temple.
From participating in the World Council of Churches in September 2022 in Germany, Gen observed the capacity all people have for empathy and love so they act in solidarity, strengthening efforts to challenge injustices.
To invite solidarity, she recently offered some ideas to the Spokane Valley Arts Council and FLLC asking people to think in their own settings about ways to make love, compassion and empathy unavoidable, just as hate seems unavoidable today.
"I invite everyone to consider what can we do in our settings to make compassion unavoidable," Gen asked.
In that spirit, she invites the community to create and display "Love Lives Here" or "Love Is Greater Than Hate" signs in solidarity.
The suggestion is for people to recycle political signs that stand on wire H's in lawns, to use their creativity and visualize experiences of love rooted in compassion, to create designs and then set them in the yards of homes, businesses and churches.
Once people complete their sign, they are asked to send a photograph of both sides, write a brief description and send it email@example.com.
"Gen is collecting and posting online the images people create and the stories behind them "for us to enjoy and to grow love together where we live," said Jennifer Compau, a Spokane Valley artist involved with FLLC who is assisting with the project.
After displaying their signs in lawns, people who wish can bring their heart signs to the FLLC's annual Healing the Earth Vigil from 2 to 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Doris Morrison Learning Center—1330 S. Henry Rd. in Greenacres—and place them along the pathways near the center where the vigil will be held.
During the Healing the Earth Vigil, Constance Holland of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane will speak on behalf of the Saltese Flats marshlands and wildlife, telling their stories as if the land could speak its concern about plans to increase the pressure of natural gas that flows through a 60-year-old pipeline running underneath it.
Gen remembers the trauma in 2010 when the San Bruno Pipeline in California blew up a neighborhood.
The GTN Xpress Pipeline that runs from British Columbia to California under the Saltese Flats Wetlands, as well as under Liberty Lake, Ridgeline High School, Valley Real Life Church and daycare centers, she said.
Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light is calling for efforts to stop the pipeline expansion.
After the vigil, people can take a wildlife photography nature through the Saltese Wetlands to where coyotes, owls, geese, swans, ducks, blackbirds, chickadees, swallows, eagles, hawks, frogs and otters might be seen.
Gen said the plan is for the "Love Is Greater" community engagement to continue into the fall.
"Another idea to illustrate love where we live is to do chalk drawings on sidewalks with messages of compassion for kids to see on their way to school," she added.
In addition, during November, FLLC plans to join with the "Little Amal" Walk to build empathy for refugees. Little Amal is a 12-foot puppet of a nine-year-old Syrian refugee girl looking for her mother. Since July 2021, she has traveled from Syria through Eastern Europe. On Sept. 7, the puppet begins her U.S. walk.
Gen hopes every place of faith and conscience can discover what they can do to strengthen the message that "love lives here."
"Bullying voices have been strong this year, belittling LGBTQ kids at school board meetings and creating fear," she said.
Members of FLLC and Gen were concerned how long it took for the Spokane Valley mayor to make any statement at City Council related to the vandalism at Veradale UCC. Gen wrote a letter to the editor asking the city to take a stand against hate.
She was relieved, however, that the Spokane Valley police chief has called the vandalism "an incident of hate" and called in the FBI to help with investigations.
Gen wants those who did the vandalism to know they do not have to continue to act in hate.
"Christian faith says we can each turn around and start again. God created everyone. No one has to stay stuck in hate," she said.
"All of us as humans get things wrong. Part of being human is that we can change if pride and ego do not get in our way," Gen said.
In the spirit of solidarity and to express that love is greater than hate, Gen, who convenes FLLC, recently helped the group write a letter to Venerable Geshe Phelgye and those at the Temple of Universal Compassion in Spokane to express grief that funds were stolen from them on Aug. 13. FLLC members spread word about an event Aug. 18 and 19 to raise funds to replace those lost.
Then FLLC wrote the Spokane City Council and Spokane's mayor expressing concern that the mayor was on stage and prayed for at a recent rally held by leaders known for their white nationalist hate and racism. The letters called city leaders to live up to their new slogan, "In Spokane, We All Belong."
FLLC also sent a letter to state leaders asking the people of the State of Washington to join with us in opposing Christian nationalism and white supremacy in Spokane and, indeed, the entire State of Washington.
"We reject all attempts to cloak bigotry in religious language, and we ask you to do the same. We hold fast to the separation of church and state, as articulated in our nation's constitution. We seek a city and state that are welcoming to all, and civic leadership that clearly observes the vital importance of the separation of church and state."
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