Dear Siblings in Christ:
Last night, I shared a note with all of you regarding a notice sent from our denominational office and promised an update today. This message was shared earlier this morning in reference to the original announcement from last night (see below my signature):
“We posted this statement after credible threats against government buildings and liberal institutions were received by a couple of Conference Ministers and one of our ecumenical partners. Mainline churches are among the entities that have been identified by law enforcement as potential targets.
Erring on the side of caution and noting the previous attacks on our churches in the West and, in recent weeks, against like-minded churches in D.C., we decided to ask our congregations to be extra vigilant going into inauguration week. We do not want to cause undue alarm, but if the threats prove credible, silence would be difficult to reconcile.
Let us hold ourselves and our churches in prayer.
Creator God, you are always present with us. We offer prayers for leaving and healing for all of creation. Hold us in your care and grant us the love and compassion we need to care for each other, now and always.
The Elected Officers of the United Church of Christ
The Rev. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President
The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, Associate General Minister
The Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister”
As the morning continues to unfold, there has been even more clarity. It’s now appearing that the threats that inspired the warning from the national church, although credible, were more specific than they initially appeared. Just to be very clear to all of you, at this time, I am not aware of any specific or general threats related to the 17th and 20th of this month against any churches in our conference. If this changes, I’ll let you know.
That’s not to say more general vigilance isn’t warranted, however. As this follow up note mentioned, “Mainline churches are among the entities that have been identified by law enforcement as potential targets.” The experience of churches in our conference bares this out. Over the past few years, there has been a slight increase in threats made to our PNC congregations and increased incidences of vandalism. As calls for justice have been needed, several of our churches have found themselves in the middle of conflicts within their congregations and communities.
In recent years, local church safety has been a steady theme in conversations among church leaders in our conference. That said, these have not been conversations rooted in fear. These conversations are rooted in the reality that sometimes, safety is compromised when living out an uncompromising faith.
The UCC lectionary focus text (1 Samuel 3:1–10) is the call-in-the-night story of Samuel and contains the words many of us know by heart, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” There is a call to us at this moment. May we be blessed with the courage and confidence to heed it.
With hope, Mike
——–Rev. Mike Denton
Conference Minister of The Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Church of Christ
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On Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 9:21 PM Rev. Michael Denton PNCUCC <email@example.com> wrote:
Dear Siblings in Christ:
Just a few hours ago, this notice was published on our denomination’s website and social media:
“A MESSAGE TO OUR CHURCHES
While we are hesitant to raise the alarm and/or overreact, recent events compel us to inform you about what we are hearing regarding possible threats that have come to our attention. There are reports that “liberal” churches will become targets of possible attacks in the coming week, with the dates of Jan. 17 and Jan. 20 featured more prominently. We strongly encourage you to be attendant to all safety concerns for ministers and congregants, even if it means meeting in a way that is other than in person at a church building this week.”
Because of the immediate possibility of danger, the short time to respond, the recent violence across our country, and the source of this information, it was determined to get this notice to you as soon as possible.
Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.
Over the next several hours and days, as more information is learned, the alarm sounded by this notice may need to be turned up or down. We are going to learn more, confirm more, and share more as soon as possible. At the very least, expect some sort of update from me tomorrow afternoon.
In the meantime, I encourage you to make plans. For example, if you have been using your church building for any part of your worship services, make plans to do something different this Sunday. Make plans for how to respond in case your facility is targeted in any way. Make plans for what to do if your online worship service is disrupted. Make plans for your safety. These are good plans to have available even if we find that these plans are not needed this particular week.
Over the past year, we have learned that taking precautions and stepping back from our buildings is not the same as retreating from our mission. We continue to be called to love and serve God and God’s people. We continue to be called to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. My good siblings, this world needs what we are called to share and do. Living into that calling may be more difficult at this time than it has been at others, but it has never been more important.
With hope, Mike