Signs of the Times
Our commitment to be a bridge of hope and reconciliation for our community continues. Likewise our commitment to uproot racism and grow a beloved community of justice and dignity carries forward. Our work in the cause of Christ continues even as, in accord with a request from the staff of the Village of Libertyville, the banners on the columns of our church portico and the entrance to the C.E. wing have been removed.
The Session was notified by Village of Libertyville staff that they relaxed enforcement of sign ordinances during the pandemic to accommodate businesses that felt a need to generate traffic with more visible signage for sales and events. They communicated to us and to other churches that they considered ordinances about sales and events to apply to church signage. As stalwart citizens of the village, predating its incorporation, the church is cooperating with the village and the request of its staff. Still, the Session has begun a conversation with the village to review whether ordinances regarding shops and sales truly were written with church signage for religious expression in mind.
Looking back to the days following the death of George Floyd and the wider exposure of racism’s impact in our land, the Session placed a banner proclaiming three words – black lives matter - as a statement of faith meant to lift up those who bear a unique burden. While the sign was affirmed by large numbers of our congregation and community, many confused our purpose with other organizations and events of the day. The Session clarified its perspective last summer with communication that was mailed via USPS to the congregation and that has remained on our website’s anti-racism section ever since (alongside resources and videos from each minister with biblical grounding for our statement).
This moment is an opportunity to both reaffirm our commitments and affirm the broader work of faith that we are about. The Session has affirmed that we are a PCUSA Matthew 25 congregation that emphasizes: Building congregational vitality; Dismantling structural racism; and Eradicating systemic poverty. Our work is broad and interconnected and the ongoing work to uproot racism is consistent with our witness to Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 12, some Pharisees approached Jesus insisting he show signs. He responded by saying that what they will be given is the “Sign of Jonah.” “Just as Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days and three nights, so the Human One will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” – Matthew 12:40. Jesus was offering the sign of the fish – as a sign of his suffering, death, and resurrection. It also was an opportunity for transformation. Now today, as Christians applying the faith to this age of ours, we see challenges of racism and poverty through the lens of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.
Moving forward, there may be occasional signs on our church campus. And there will always be detail about all our ministries on our website. Yet when we share a message, be assured, it stems from the fact that we are a vital congregation that is relevant with faith for our age. Our hope is in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He remains the sign of hope for the world. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to share that sign by working to uproot racism, eradicate poverty, and share good news with persistence and hope.
Pastor Brian Paulson