SEATTLE, WA (December 21, 2016) – Paul Corner, pastor of First Covenant Church, said the community reaction has been “overwhelming and positive” to the white ribbons of support tied to its fencing and filled with messages of support for people feeling marginalized and concerned following the contentious presidential election, which was marred by bigoted words and actions.
“There has been a constant stream of people stopping and reading the notes, adding their own, taking photos, and posting about it on social media, and more,” Corner said. “We have received Facebook messages and even handwritten messages from many people expressing their thanks and sharing their own stories of how they are feeling. People with no faith tradition have said how moving it was for them to see a church express love in this way.”
The church is located in Capitol Hill on the edge of downtown Seattle. It is an area with large populations of immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and is the center of the city’s LGBTQ community, Corner said. Members of the church had heard of hate speech and actions committed against members of the community. “We knew we had to do something to express love, support, and solidarity with people in our community who were hurting and afraid.”
Corner added, “This wall has become a holy place in a way that you wouldn’t expect some metal fencing to be.”
He said there are differing political opinions within the church along with different reactions to the ribbons. “But overall, there is a sense that God continues to be at work in and through us in our vision and calling to care for our neighborhood.”
Ellie VerGowe, the ministry resident for community outreach, came up with the idea. “I honestly felt uncertain about the wall of ribbons in the beginning,” she said, adding that there had been multiple protests following the election. “I wondered if a wall of ribbons would feel trite to people and whether the ribbons with messages of love would connect with anyone.”
Buth they did. “I would walk by the wall multiple times in a day to read what other people wrote on the extra ribbons we left out for the neighborhood to participate with,” VerGowe said. “The messages were beautiful, and I would often run into people who would stop by the wall, write something on a ribbon for their neighbors and then get into a conversation with someone else who was also writing a love note on a ribbon.”
Corner said there are differing political opinions within the church along with different reactions to the ribbons. “But overall, there is a sense that God continues to be at work in and through us in our vision and calling to care for our neighborhood.”
Hanging the ribbons helped lead to a meeting VerGowe and Corner had with other community leaders last week to take further steps toward promoting reconciliation through awareness and action events.
The church is starting to take down some of the ribbons but has left up a note encouraging people to take some for themselves or to share with others. “We are replacing them with some panels centered around the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love and encouraging our congregation as well as passersby on the street to either write or draw on the panels ways that they have experienced love, seen peace, what they have hoped for, and what brings them joy.”