LIVINGSTON, NJ (March 28, 2017) – Susan Gillespie, pastor of Trinity Covenant Church, was surprised to learn that the rabbi of a local synagogue had published a column in the local Star-Ledger thanking her and her congregation for a letter they sent him.
In the wake of national and local threats of violence to synagogues, Gillespie wrote a letter expressing support for the congregation of Temple B’nai Abraham. Several dozen members signed it after a Sunday service.
The letter read:
“We of Trinity Covenant Church send to you and your membership our love and care, and to grieve with you the outrageous threats and actions that have taken place in our country against Jewish Community Centers, synagogues, graveyards and other institutions, and against the peace of all Jews. Such behavior is evil and we hate it, and we will not tolerate it anywhere we encounter it. We’re small in number and can’t offer you much by way of warriors, but we pray for you all to our Lord, whose might and faithfulness dwarf those who want you to be afraid. Please accept his letter as a sign of our common life in Livingston, and common desire for peace and kindness.”
Gillespie was surprised the following week when her son, who lives in Nebraska, texted her a screenshot of the letter that was posted on the Temple’s Facebook page.
This past weekend Rabbi Clifford Kulwin wrote an op-ed column for NJ.com, the paper’s website. In it he described receiving the letter. “Pastor Susan Gillespie is treasurer of our Livingston Clergy Association, so I assumed she had sent a dues notice or similar piece of correspondence. I was wrong.”
He continued, “I shared the letter with colleagues and congregants. We recognized this was something special. I posted it on the Temple’s Facebook page and my personal page and the Likes and Comments began immediately. It has been shared hundreds of times and reached tens of thousands of individuals. The letter touched people deeply.”
Gillespie said, “For us, it was a letter—but for him and the congregation, it was the first letter of its kind they’d ever received.”
It has been an instructive experience for Gillespie. “This Temple is enormous, and we are tiny. Having us on their side doesn’t mean much by way of power or strength, but having us in prayer with them points us all to the God who is bigger than any hatred, and that meant a lot to them. And it surely has me thinking in new ways about how we stand with our neighbors.”