A Hate Crime Story

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Once our church facility opens up again and you return to campus you will discover that during this time when we have moved our ministry to a virtual format, we have added security cameras to our physical plant.  In the past year we have had a couple incidents that precipitated this decision.  As members of this church family you have a right to know what has happened.

We have always had many people visit our church.  It is a beautiful building with lovely grounds.  However, this winter we saw an uptick of people coming to our campus who appeared to be scoping out the facility.  One man in particular took photos of all entrances into the sanctuary and when engaged in conversation shared his opinion that our church is part of the “Illuminati.”  We also had a rage-filled voicemail that was deemed a “hate crime” by the police.  The caller was angry about our church’s inclusion of all sexual orientations.  Then, after the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the California Council of Churches encouraged progressive churches who display support for racial justice on their building to have staff work remotely during the week of the presidential inauguration. We were told that this suggestion was based on credible threats.

These incidents led us to feel that cameras should be added for the safety of our congregation, staff and HeadStart children.  We thank the Property Commission for responding so quickly to make this possible.  A Security Task Team was formed and meets regularly to address safety, with a desire to not sacrifice welcome or hospitality.

Regarding the Hate Crime, we made the decision to ask that the case not be turned over to the District Attorney, but instead to ask the police to warn the caller.  The caller admitted to the Detective that he made the call.  The caller identified himself as a Christian man who was disgusted by our church’s message of welcome.  He felt it was his First Amendment Right to leave us that message.  The Detective informed him that it was actually classified as a Hate Crime.  The law enforcement officer told the man that the leadership of the La Verne Church of the Brethren had lived out our faith by warning him rather than asking for him to be prosecuted. In other words we were the ones who had continued the work and love of Jesus. The caller asked the Detective to pass on his gratitude to the La Verne Church of the Brethren for that decision.

When the Detective told me that story, I was so moved by the Detective’s understanding that we had lived out our conviction to follow Jesus.  In this time of polarization and hateful rhetoric, we want to keep our community safe from those who might mean us harm.  At the same time, we want the La Verne Church of the Brethren to be a place of faithfulness, welcome, belonging and transformation. 

Dear Church Family:

As many of you are already aware, on March 15 the CDC issued guidelines that all gatherings over 50 people should be cancelled for the next 8 weeks. Today, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order entitled “Safer at Home” that requests we all stay home except for essential needs (https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/). We are in an unprecedented time of learning what it means to care for one another and protect our most vulnerable community members!

In accordance with these guidelines, the leadership of La Verne Church of the Brethren has made the following decisions about our life together as a church:

1. We will connect virtually for Sunday morning services.  You can tune in via our website:  https://www.lavernecob.org/sermons/

2. There are no scheduled church events: no board meetings, no commission meetings, no CONNECT! group meetings during this time. The church offices and all church facilities will be closed beginning March 23. Staff will work remotely. You will still be able to reach the church office and pastoral staff during this time at 909-593-1364.

3. We are committed to continue paying our staff, and they are working hard to identify creative ways to “be the church” together during this time. You will receive a separate letter soon from the pastoral staff outlining ways you can remain connected to one another, how you can access pastoral care, and what you can expect from online worship services and other online connections. 

4. Because we will continue to pay our staff, it is more important than ever for you to continue your financial support of your church. Many of you have asked how you can be helpful. The short answer is: keep giving! If you are used to putting cash or a check into the offering plate, please consider sending a check to the church office or pushing a button remotely instead. Go to https://www.lavernecob.org/give-2/. You do not need to have a Paypal app to do this. Your continued financial support during this difficult time is the most meaningful action you can take to show your love for our staff. The church is its people!

5. If you are 65 or older, or if you have a chronic health condition, please take special care of yourselves. Because we care about you, we cannot accept any volunteer work that would take you out of your homes. We will continue to convey ways you can connect with the church from your homes, and the letter from our pastoral staff next week will share additional ideas for how you can continue to support the work of the church and connect in meaningful ways with others from where you are.

As the designated leaders of the church for this time, we covet your prayers. In a rapidly evolving situation, these decisions are not easy, particularly as Palm Sunday, Love Feast, and Easter are so deeply meaningful to us, as is our connection to one another. But we are committed to finding new ways to “be the church” to one another and maintain our commitment to doing the work of Jesus peacefully, simply, and together.

With prayers for your health and well-being,

Zandra Wagoner, Church Moderator, and Laurie Schreiner, Church Board Chair