Letter to the editor: Clergy committed to undoing injustice everywhere
The Congregational Church is a physical and social anchor to the town of Middlebury. We can orient ourselves by its spire. It houses weekly Community Suppers for those who need them, convenes and hosts Community Conversations about issues that affect all of us, and is a place of worship and profound connection for many.
On Friday, June 5, a swastika was discovered chalked onto the sidewalk right below the sign for the church. We strongly believe that this symbol of the Nazi party and their desire for an Aryan nation, cleansed of anyone not of their race — including Jews, LGBTQ people, disabled people and Roma people (“gypsies”) — was put there to try to intimidate a church that stands for community, connection, and justice for all people, and, in the past weeks, especially justice for Black people.
The swastika has often been used specifically to target and intimidate Jews, even in our own town of Middlebury, and news of this recent event may feel especially traumatic to the Jewish community. Nevertheless, although white supremacy and anti-Semitism go hand in hand, we ask the community to consider that perhaps this swastika was meant for all of us. Perhaps it was meant to intimidate anyone who is taking a stand against racism. Perhaps its purpose was to target anyone who believes in striving for justice for all people regardless of what color they are, where they come from, what religion they practice or don’t practice, what abilities they have, and whom they love.
While this hateful act was likely intended to intimidate, we, the Middlebury Clergy Association refuse to be intimidated. We take this act as a call to continue to lead our communities to stand against hate everywhere. We recognize that in this particular moment, we are all especially called to speak out against anti-Blackness, something to which we are deeply committed. We are grateful for the college students from the Congregational Church who organized “Chalk Up Middlebury for Black Lives Matter” on June 5. Quite profoundly, they reclaimed the space where the swastika was drawn with words that said, “Love Lives Here.”
More broadly, as religious communities have done through the ages, we are committed to undoing injustice whenever and wherever we find it. An event like this, regardless of the perpetrator’s intentions, challenges all of us to look deeply into our own hearts, to examine our own lingering feelings of ill-will, and to commit to disrupting the pattern of violence in our world. We are inspired that so many are already joined in common cause to do this essential work.
Middlebury Area Clergy Association (MACA)
Middlebury Friends Meeting
Guiding Teacher, Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community
Rev. Daniel Cooperrider Weybridge Congregational Church
Rev. Barnaby Feder
Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society
Pastor, Bridport Congregational Church
Rev. Elizabeth Gleich
Associate Pastor, Congregational Church of Middlebury, UCC
Rebecca Kneale Gould Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Middlebury College, Havurah of Addison County member, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light board member
Associate Muslim Chaplain, Middlebury College
Director of Education/Program & Outreach Coordinator, Havurah Jewish Congregation of Addison County
Mark R. Orten
Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, Middlebury College
Rev. Andrew Nagy-Benson, Senior Pastor, Congregational Church of Middlebury, UCC
The Very Rev. Diane Nancekivell
Interim Ministry Team member, St Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Rabbi Danielle Stillman Rabbi/Associate Chaplain, Middlebury College
Rev. Matthew von Behrens Chaplain, University of Vermont Health Network – Porter Hospital/Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church