10,000 scarves are a rainbow against bullying
Written by Eric Anderson
June 28, 2013

They set a bold goal: 3,000 hand-knitted, crocheted, or woven scarves, bright with rainbow color, for delegates and visitors to General Synod 2013 to wear, declare, and pass along. They received enough to go over nine miles, laid end to end: 10,000 scarves to splash a message of inclusion, if not over the sky, over the shoulders and over the hearts of everyone willing to make a simple pledge: to take action against bullying.

Scarf Project coordinator the Rev. Marja Coons-Torn, Penn Central Conference Minister, told the Synod assembly Friday night that they still had more work to do. "Between now and Tuesday please visit the booth, and pick up a scarf or even two or perhaps three and take the pledge to take action against bullying of LGBT youth. Wear your scarf." Andy Lang, Executive Director of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, offered his thanks to those whose busy fingers had created the thousands of scarves.

Part of the commitment is to spread the word. When a scarf wearer is asked about it, they offer the scarf to the questioner if they, too, will take action to stop violence. There are plenty of scarves left in the Exhibit Hall waiting to be worn. "It's viral marketing in the real world," said the Rev. Jeanne Murawski, associate pastor of St. Peter's UCC in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Plenty of Synod-goers already have taken the pledge. The Rev. Chris McArdle, pastor of St. Luke's UCC in Columbus, Nebraska, knows that young people of his church have endured bullying via social media, facing shaming messages left by peers. In contrast, he and his wife, Erin Heers-McArdle, celebrated the ministry of Kamp Kaleo, the Nebraska Conference's outdoor ministry center in Burwell. Affirmation, not condemnation, is the order of the day there. "It's great to see folks out in a setting where they aren't judged," she said.

Lizanna Angeli, Michelle Long, and Julia Van Fleet, young people from Naples, Florida, carefully examined the piles of rainbow scarves, searching for just the right one among all the beautiful creations. Both Angeli and Long have friends who have been bullied about who they cared for. "I have a friend who's gay," said Van Fleet. "I don't think he's being bullied but I want to support him."

The Rev. Mark Doty, pastor of the Hammond Street Congregational Church UCC in Bangor, Maine, was carrying more than one of the rainbow scarves when he stepped away from the booth: the extras were destined for members of his church staff back home. Carl Goodwin-Moore, a social worker from Belfast, Maine, works with suicidal adolescents, including those who have been bullied over their sexuality.

"Take your scarves back to your local community to get even more people involved," Coons-Torn urged, "and let's prove that God is still speaking."

"Take a scarf," called Lang, "and take action against bullying!"

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