Here’s a story for you regarding the St. Louis church burnings. After you read, please check out the fundraising and letter signing sites below. Donate if you can, but if nothing else, please sign the letter and support our fellow UUs.
A few days ago, I came across a Facebook posting of this article: https://news.vice.com/article/arson-suspected-after-five-fires-in-ten-days-at-black-churches-in-st-louis
The thing that struck me the most was Pastor Burton’s comment: “’One thing I am disappointed about is I haven't heard anything from the rest of the faith community in terms of solidarity," Burton said. "St. Louis is a racially divided city. If I was a white pastor, I would be more intentional about reaching out to a black church and being like, 'Hey, we're with you, we're not for this,' I haven't heard anything.’"
So, impetuous soul that I am, I drafted the following email to the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis.
My name is Deb Cruz and I'm with the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship located in Bellingham, WA. One of our members just posted an article related to the New Northside Missionary Baptists church fire about a week ago. In the article, Rev. Roderick Burton of the Baptist church stated he hadn't heard any word of support from the rest of the faith community in St. Louis.
Is there a chance that your congregation could contact him and show some support for their situation, if you haven't done so already? In map questing the distance between your congregation and Pastor Burton's, it looks as though you're only about 15 minutes away.
The contact info I have for them is:
8645 Goodfellow Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63147
I know this is an odd request, but the situation there is making impacts even here in Washington State and I felt compelled to contact you and ask for your support. One of our goals here in the Pacific Northwest, particularly regarding our Native and Latino communities, is to work on a interfaith level against these kinds of situations. Thought maybe you might too if you're not already.
Thanks for your ears.
What was truly amazing was the response I got back from Brian Mason, the Ministerial Intern for the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis.
How wonderful and humbling it is to hear from such a vibrant and active UU community! Thank you for reaching out to us here in St. Louis, Missouri!
Regarding your questions:
The faith, as well as civic, law, and academic communities throughout St. Louis have responded to the (now seven) church burnings that have happened in St. Louis City (where First Unitarian is), as well as in St. Louis County. Just this past Wednesday, Rev. Perchlik and I, as well as hundreds of other religious professionals, gathered at New Northside Missionary Baptist church to pray and show our solidarity. The event was powerful and evocative. The local newspaper, the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch," details the prayer meeting here: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/arsonist-who-burned-six-area-churches-picked-fight-they-cannot/article_716f0575-bebd-51f3-bc44-d1eab2ad03c5.html. You may be pleased to know that Rev. Roderick Burton specifically mentioned how touched he was by the gesture and efforts of the St. Louis area UUs!
Additionally, regional UU clergy sent letters and visited individually with almost every one of the congregations that were targeted. A letter of our support, which was hand delivered, I have attached to this email. You will see my own, Rev. Perchlik's, and the signature of several other area UU ministers that have pledged our support.
For individuals and organizations that would like to support the churches that were burnt, Metropolitan Congregations United & Faith for Justice (two very legitimate area organizations that many UU congregations work with) has set up a fundraising campaign to aid in restoration and security efforts. Here is the link to that campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-for-st-louis-churches#/
I would like to personally thank you for keeping me accountable. Furthermore, I want to thank you for your compassion and your own efforts to combat racism, bias, and oppression. UUs like you give me hope and you fill me with pride.
Please be in touch if you have any further questions.
Grace and Peace,
Brian Mason, Lewis Ministerial Intern
First Unitarian Church of St. Louis
I asked his permission to forward his email on, and that is what I’m doing.
Please show your support for the affected St. Louis churches and for UUs in the region there for stepping up to the plate!