In its 200-plus year existence, our beloved church has witnessed history, in its many forms, from our corner of Lafayette Square. That holds true today with the protests associated with the murder of George Floyd and other innocent Black citizens across our country.
We as a parish support the protesters' fight for an end to systemic racism. As is often the case in these situations, we have also been faced with significant challenges. Our historic buildings have been damaged by fire and graffiti. Individuals have built encampments on the church grounds, pitching tents, cooking on open fires in close proximity to the buildings, and relieving themselves in inappropriate places, resulting in a risk to the health and safety of protesters and others. At times, our staff have not felt safe traveling to and from work, or in their offices.
At its meeting last week, the Vestry discussed the tension between support of the Black Lives Matter movement and keeping our staff and property safe. As a result of that discussion, we met with City leaders last Friday. The meeting was productive, and we came away with a plan to peacefully relocate the individuals camping on our grounds that was based on engaging the protesters in conversation. We did not have the opportunity to finish executing that plan because on Monday the police began clearing H Street, NW. We were not aware they would do this.
After renewed violence on Monday evening, the City contacted us on Tuesday and offered to provide fencing around our buildings. After a thorough discussion, and in consultation with Bishop Mariann, we reluctantly agreed to the fencing. While we hate both the fencing and the boarded-up windows, one of our main responsibilities as rector and wardens is to protect the buildings. Our hope is to remove both the fencing and plywood as soon as practicable.
We have much work to do. In the coming weeks we must return our attention to regathering and reengaging our congregation, while continuing the conversation on racial healing that we started the past two Sundays. Our Regathering Task Force is hard at work planning for our safe return to in-person worship. A survey on that topic will be released shortly.
We ask for your continued prayers for our parish, but also for our staff, who have been working under extremely difficult conditions.
The Rev. Robert W. Fisher, Rector
Paul Barkett, Senior Warden
Jeff Hantson, Junior Warden