Residents of Homewood and Flossmoor have rallied around The Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist after someone vandalized its sign in support of Black Lives Matter.
The sign, with the message "Black Lives Matter because we're all made in the image of God," had been in place for more than two months at the Flossmoor church, but during the night Wednesday, Aug. 12, someone took yellow spray paint and changed the word "Black" to "All."
The church administrator removed the sign on Thursday, but some people were upset by the change. On social media it was suggested that residents put their Black Lives Matter signs on the church lawn.
Pastor Jeremy Froyen said he’d been out of town. When he returned home Saturday evening “the front yard was full of Black Lives Matter signs and people had drawn (messages) on the sidewalk. It was really cool.”
He said the response came from the community, not necessarily from church members. Still, he sees it as “a game changer” for his congregation.
The pastor was able to remove the paint the vandal sprayed and the Black Lives Matter banner has returned to the church's front lawn. Since the Black Lives Matter sign was put up in June, Froyen said he’s gotten positive responses and had a conversation with a few people about it. One man thought the church shouldn’t be political.
“This isn’t political. This is a human thing,” he said. “It’s a Jesus thing.”
He elaborated in a Facebook post after learning of the event Thursday. Part of his message is: "St. John’s is committed to being the bearers of God’s love and grace and mercy to all God’s children, especially those who have been forced to live on the margins for far too long. If you’re wondering what Jesus would do, he would be the brown skinned leader of the protest march."
His comment has since gotten nearly 100 comments and been shared close to 50 times.
He points out that “it’s not their place to change what we wrote and it should go without saying that all lives matter. But the fact is that we have to say Black lives matter or Brown lives matter or the laundry list of lives that we need to say matter.
“That we have to say that and the realization (of racism) in our history, if you look at how our systemic structures have been set up against people that are not from the dominant white culture,” has perpetuated the issues raised by minorities, he said.
Froyen’s been trying to raise the profile of the church at 2640 Park Drive. He thinks many people pass it in the neighborhood near downtown Flossmoor and don’t really think about it.
For the church’s older, white congregation, Froyen sees this event as “a good diving board point for us. Dive in and explore a little more” the history of the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Our members like to say they’re progressive,” he said. He hopes this event will help them step outside the church structure and become more engaged with others.
Froyen hasn’t decided what the church’s response will be to the incident. His hope is this act “is going to be a positive thing in the end.”
He’s reached out to the Episcopal diocese’s anti-racism task force for conversation on the matter.