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Hate incident spurs ‘Love Is Greater’ campaign

Veradale United Church of Christ turned hate-related vandalism in June into a “Love Is Greater Than Hate” campaign beginning with a party July 3.

More than 100 people came for a meal and conversation. Temple Beth Shalom and Congregation Emanu-El responded immediately, as Veradale UCC responded to instances of hate and graffiti at the temple.

Those at the party donated security cameras for the church.

Community members create signs calling for spreading love.

The “Love Is Greater Than Hate” campaign now includes community art, fall events and letters to political leaders.

Gen Heywood, the pastor, pays closer attention to what is going on around the church but doesn’t want it to be a fortress.

Inside and outside, hearts and signs say, “Love.”

On June 25, vandals took down the rainbow Pride flag, a Black Lives Matter flag, a flag with human rights messages, and small Pride flags. A neighbor’s video showed vandals run across the lawn, pouring diesel to kill the grass with the phrase, Lev 2013, referring to Lev. 20:13, an anti-gay passage.

Because Veradale UCC is open and affirming, and many members are LGBTQ, the vandalism is being investigated as a hate incident.

Through Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience (FLLC), which Gen convenes, Gen is finding more ways for love to be greater than hate.

An donor replaced the three flags, which were raised in a ceremony at the July party.

Now the church displays a different flag each month. One says, ‘We strive to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and our neighbor as ourselves.’ Another expresses the UCC three great loves: “Love neighbor, love children and love creation.”

While participating in the World Council of Churches in September 2022 in Germany, Gen observed that around the globe people’s empathy and love lead them to act in solidarity to challenge injustices.

To invite solidarity, she recently offered ideas to the Spokane Valley Arts Council and FLLC asking people to think in their settings about ways to make love, compassion and empathy unavoidable, just as hate seems unavoidable today.

“What can we do in our settings to make compassion unavoidable?” Gen asked.

In that spirit, she has invited community members to create and display “Love Lives Here” or “Love Is Greater Than Hate” signs in solidarity, using old political signs on wire H’s that can be placed in yards of homes, businesses and churches. Participants have emailed photos of their signs and she is posting them online.

After displaying signs in lawns, people brought them to the FLLC’s annual Healing the Earth Vigil at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Doris Morrison Learning Center in Greenacres and place them along pathways near the center where people can walk after the vigil.

The vigil included Constance Holland of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane speaking on behalf of the Saltese Flats marshlands and wildlife as she raises concern about plans to increase the pressure of natural gas that flows through a 60-year-old pipeline running underneath the natural area.

The GTN Xpress Pipeline that runs from British Columbia to California under the Saltese Flats Wetlands, as well as under communities, schools, churches and daycare centers. Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light is promoting efforts to stop the pipeline expansion.

Gen plans for the “Love Is Greater” community engagement to continue through fall.

In addition, during November, FLLC plans to join with the “Little Amal” Campaign to build empathy for refugees. Little Amal is a 12-foot puppet of a nine-year-old Syrian refugee girl looking for her mother. Since July 2021, the puppet has traveled from Syria through Eastern Europe. On Sept. 7, the puppet begins her U.S. walk.

Gen hopes every place of faith can discover what they can do to strengthen the message that “love lives here.”

“Bullying voices have been strong this year, belittling LGBTQ kids at school board meetings and creating fear,” she said.

Members of FLLC and Gen were concerned how long it took the Spokane Valley mayor to make any statement about the vandalism at Veradale UCC. Gen wrote a letter to the editor asking the city of Spokane Valley to take a stand against hate.

They were glad the Spokane Valley police chief has designated the vandalism “an incident of hate” and called in the FBI to help investigate.

Gen wants those who did the vandalism to know they do not have to continue to act in hate, because “Christian faith says we can each turn around and start again. God created everyone. No one has to stay stuck in hate,” she said.

“All of us as humans get things wrong. Part of being human is that we can change if pride and ego do not get in our way,” Gen said.

In the spirit of solidarity and to express that love is greater than hate, Gen, who convenes FLLC, recently helped the group write a letter of solidarity to Venerable Geshe Phelgye and the Temple of Universal Compassion in Spokane when they had funds stolen on Aug. 13. FLLC helped promote an event they held to raise funds to replace what they lost.

Then FLLC wrote the Spokane City Council and Spokane’s mayor expressing concern that the mayor was on stage and prayed for at a recent rally held by leaders known for their white nationalist hate and racism. The letters called city leaders to live up to their slogan, “In Spokane, We All Belong.”

FLLC also sent a letter to state leaders asking the people Washington to join in opposing Christian nationalism and white supremacy in the state.

“We reject all attempts to cloak bigotry in religious language and ask you to do the same. We hold fast to the separation of church and state, articulated in our nation’s constitution. We seek a city and state that are welcoming to all, and civic leadership that observes the importance of the separation of church and state.”

For information, call 926-7173 or email


Pacific NW United Church of Christ Conference News © October 2023


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