Dear Members and Friends of St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church,
In this most Holy time of Lent, and in the spirit of events that have transpired over the last week in our nation, please let me greet you with the spirit and grace of shalom.
Over the past week or so we have seen cowardly acts of vandalism and desecration of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia. In the Jewish tradition, the grave sites of the departed are considered sacred ground, so the desecration and vandalism goes much deeper for those that have been affected by these most unholy acts.
In addition to these acts, much closer to home in Wilmington, the Jewish Community Center experienced a phone call apprising them of a bomb threat. The Community Center is a place for children to gather and play in addition to offering activities to senior citizens. This threat was directed towards some of the most vulnerable of the beloved community here in Wilmington and are an affront to the Gospel we proclaim.
These acts of terrorism are contrary to the American spirit of justice, freedom, and diversity that have made us a beautiful nation. The ugly face of anti-Semitism has been present in our nation and across this world since before many of us were born. In fact, in the long history of Christianity, anti-Semitism and the treatment of Jewish people by Christians is perhaps one of the greatest sins committed in the name of our faith.
In the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s April 18, 1994 Declaration to the Jewish Community it states “In the spirit of truth-telling, we who bear his (Luther’s) name and heritage must with pain acknowledge also Luther's anti-Judaic diatribes and the violent recommendations of his later writings against the Jews. As did many of Luther's own companions in the sixteenth century, we reject this violent invective, and yet more do we express our deep and abiding sorrow over its tragic effects on subsequent generations.”
Further, in the words of Martin Luther King I want to acknowledge that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and so, joining my voice with Pastors and Rabbis, Imams and Lay people across this great city of ours, let me be clear: an attack against one of us is an assault against all of us.
It is my prayer that God open the hearts and minds of those that have perpetrated such great atrocities against our Jewish siblings and give them peace to see the error in their ways. I pray also that more voices of the Christian community rise up with ours and denounce these actions and take a stand to walk with those that are threatened by any form of hatred, bigotry, or fear.
Christ showed his love for all that he encountered - let us now do likewise and go forth in the name of peace and with love in our hearts.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Jason Churchill
St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church