Hate crime targets N.Y. church preparing for Pride
United Church of Rockville Centre on Long Island, N.Y., became the target of a hate crime late Wednesday evening. On June 24, just days before the congregation will celebrate Pride, their rainbow flag was torn from the building.
The Rev. Scott Ressman, United Church’s pastor, discovered that the flag was missing Thursday morning, then saw damage to the facade. “This is the second time the flag has been vandalized in the last month, but this time the damage was more significant,” he said. The church’s Pride Worship Service is slated for Sunday, June 27, at 9:30 a.m.
“Our church began flying the flag about two years ago,” Ressman said of the symbol of LGBTQ+ support that celebrates the wide welcome of United Church.
“Initially there was some push-back by a couple of people in the neighborhood, and one frequent visitor to the congregation decided he could no longer support the church’s message, but in whole the flag was celebrated more than vilified,” he said. That was, until recently.
Ressman, who has served as the pastor since August 2014, is both sad and resolved. “It is unfortunate that in 2021 we are still dealing with issues of hate,” he said. “I cannot accept that this is simply young people acting up. The United States flag that is flown about six feet away from the rainbow flag, wasn’t touched. The purpose of the vandalism was to send a message to the church.
“Still, we are more resolute in our inclusive message,” he continued. “Once the damage is repaired, the flag will return. And unfortunately, security cameras will be installed as well. As a congregation we will pray for our community at Sunday’s Pride Worship Service, as well as for the individuals who committed the violence against the church and its message.”
Ressman said though Rockville Centre is a conservative community, United Church, the “small but mighty” congregation as it bills itself, has proclaimed its message of inclusive love without apology. The congregation voted to become “Open and Affirming” in 2004, the 491st UCC church to do so.
Local police have escalated the case, Ressman said, because of the attack on the church’s message of inclusivity. On Sunday, a local advocacy group, Raising Voices U.S.A, will be standing with United Church during Pride worship as a sign of moral support and public witness.
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