Written by Connie Larkman
UCC ministers, co-pastors of a small congregation in Brooklyn, are fueling a movement and paying it forward. It started with one small banner that proclaimed "Black Lives Matter."
The banner went up outside the Greenpoint Reformed Church in North Brooklyn, N.Y., immediately after the Ferguson decision was announced the week of Thanksgiving. The Rev. C.B. Stewart, Greenpoint's co-pastor, made the banner with the Lutheran pastor from the church across the street, hung it out on the fence in the white, working class neighborhood, and hoped for the best.
"In our church, we believe if there is a justice proclamation to be made, make it, and make it first, because time is of the essence," said the Rev. Ann Kansfield, another Greenpoint co-pastor. The sign, which wasn't really weather resistant, came down in a rainstorm, and after one of the church's neighbors worked to hang it back up and another praised it, Kansfield — who is also on the staff of the New York Conference of the UCC — decided to design a sturdier vinyl replacement.
"It was so easy for me to design, because the UCC website had the logo images online and they were easy to use," said Kansfield. "[The Rev.] David Gaewski, the UCC's New York Conference minister, liked it so much he wanted 15 of them. He then told me two other conference ministers [in Connecticut and Massachusetts] also wanted some for their churches. Usually, I just upload the artwork and order banners online through www.bannerbuzz.com. But since this order involved 37 banners going to four different places, I figured it would be best to call it in to their office in South Carolina."
"I explained to the woman about the order, and said we needed it quickly," said Kansfield. "I then told her that the banner said 'Black Lives Matter,' [and] she responded, 'Well, if that's what it says, I'll donate the banners myself. You place the order online, then email me and I'll take care of it.'"
"When she said 'Black Lives Matter,' I said I will donate those banners. I had to do it. I just felt it," said Sabrina Ross, the customer service representative at bannerbuzz.com. "Later, I was telling my co-worker, it just came out so fast, it was something I had to do. I didn't even know what the total of the order was going to be."
The total was well over $300, donated on the spot. The UCC banners, a rush order, are set to arrive in Brooklyn and at the UCC conference offices in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts at the end of the week. Now Kansfield is paying that kindness forward, offering on Facebook to cover the cost of similar banners for other reformed churches. She's made up the banner with the RCA logo and is ready to go.
"If I get more than 10 churches, I may freak out and need to find some extra cash for this," said Kansfield. "But I'm guessing that folks will follow the lead of Sabrina at bannerbuzz.com, who donated the first round of these. She had the first round. I got the second round. Let's see how many churches will hang banners like this. I'm also willing to design them with other denominational branding. So if there are Episcopalians or Lutherans or whatever who want them, let me know."
"I didn't anticipate the image of the banner to be so viral," said Kansfield. "Local churches, local pastors are actually doing stuff, and we can accomplish so much when we share it with one another: In this case, three settings working together, the conference, national and local church. It's so nice when coordinating ideas works out."