For the third time in about as many months, a large rainbow banner has been stolen from the front of the Christ Episcopal Church.
Reverend Susan Copley, at the urging of her church leaders, has decided to speak out about the repeated act she has come to believe is a hate crime.
The rainbow flag is meant to represent the church’s welcome to all, including gays and lesbians. Copley first started hanging the gay-friendly banner this past summer when the Episcopal Church was preparing for a vote about approving same-sex blessing liturgy. (New York state voted to approve same-sex marriage in June, 2011). Soon after, the church held its first gay wedding in which the banners were displayed.
In September, one flag was ripped right from its grommets from the front fence. At first, Copley thought perhaps a student wanted to decorate their dorm room.
Then it happened again just a few weeks later, and after some hesitation, Copley reported the incidents to Tarrytown Police, knowing however there was little they could do to find the perpetrator(s) with no security video or witnesses.
She replaced the flags and bought an extra one online to spare. Unfortunately she’ll have the chance to use it now, as a third rainbow banner was stolen last week.
“It makes me really sad,” she said. “I don’t think this town is homophobic, but someone obviously does not want us to make a visible witness of welcome to the LGBT community. This is not a gay church, it’s just a church.”
Copley and her parish are committed to making sure that all people feel welcome. “Isn’t this the real meaning of Christmas? That God came into the world to make radical, inclusive, crazy love known to everyone!”
She will sermonize on the topic this Sunday, though she feels certain that this is not an act committed by anyone in her congregation.
Copley wishes the person who is taking down the banners would come in and talk to her in person. She is eager to have a conversation with whomever did this. “Tell me why this offends you? I certainly want to hear.”
Until she hangs the new flag, in time for Christmas and a same-sex wedding in January, there is the banner announcing even to the thief a message of inclusion.
Rainbow Banner Thieves: God Loves You Madly!
“This is what Christmas is really about,” Copley said. “God came into this world to prove that we are all loved and accepted.”
And she cited come scripture: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love." _ 1John 4:7
Christ Church is located at 43 S. Broadway, 914-631-2074, christchurchtny. org. Have any info about these incidents? Please call. (Copley said, "We don’t want anyone arrested; only apprehended by love.")
Christmas services this year include:
The pageant at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24, when children dress as angels and shepherds (and more are welcome; there are always extra costumes available).
Also on Christmas Eve: a candlelight Eucharist service at10:30 p.m.
On Christmas day, Dec. 25: a “very informal” 11 a.m. service when kids can come in PJs and even bring their toys. It’s held around the Christmas tree and provides a time to“come and say thanksgiving for Jesus’ birth,” Copley said.