By Jeff Brumley
What should your church do if Westboro Baptist planned to picket the high school across the street? If you ask Pastor Jill McCrory of Twinbrook Baptist Church, the answer is stream giant rainbow banners from the windows and turn the morning into an interfaith event.
“There was never any idea of hiding who we are on this corner because Westboro Baptist Church is coming to town,” McCrory said.
Who they are, she said about Twinbrook, is an Alliance of Baptists congregation in Rockville, Md., that practices the love Jesus modeled in the Gospels and is aligned with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.
McCrory and others from her church are known advocates for the LGBT community and are regulars at gay pride parades, rallies and other events.
So when they learned Westboro planned a Nov. 10 protest at two local high schools, including one located diagonally across the street from Twinbrook, the congregation kicked into action.
“The best thing we could do is be a witness of inclusion and a safe place,” McCrory said. “Friends from the synagogue across the street are going to be here and there are going to be a lot of clergy here from other congregations who want to provide a welcoming place.”
McCrory explained the thinking behind Twinbrook’s plans with Baptist News Global.
Is the congregation all-in on this?
Yes. That’s who we are. … It’s part of our identity. We are a welcoming community and we are consistently involved in justice endeavors.
Are you at all concerned that Westboro may turn around and picket Twinbrook?
I fully expect we will be on their list whenever they are in town and need someone to picket.
And you’re OK with that?
I don’t think they should picket anybody, but am I not going to show our welcome because I am afraid they will figure out we are welcoming and affirming? No.
With the presence of so much clergy, will counseling be offered to anyone who wants it?
Not counseling. But quite a few parents are going to be walking their kids to school, so parents are invited to come back here to get a reassuring word that at not all faith groups are the same as Westboro Baptist Church.
What emotions did you experience when you learned Westboro was coming to your neighborhood?
I have seen Westboro before because I have been at the Supreme Court for the marriage rulings. … I know of them, I know how they are and what they do when they show up, so when we heard they were going to be across the street, I thought what kind of support can we give the school?
What did you want your support to be?
Very visible. We are putting some rainbow banners up. We may be in the parking lot with donuts and coffee. We may sing some songs and we pray. What we are not doing is marching down the street to have a debate with Westboro. We want people to know that … there is love here in the face of that exclusion. It’s important for me as the pastor of this Baptist church … that we make that obvious.
Is this about giving support to the school or about showing the community a kinder, gentler Baptist witness?
I think those are tied together. Westboro protesters call themselves Baptists. We have to show there are other kinds of Baptists. I don’t want anyone to think they came from our congregation. We also want people to know there are other faith choices in our community that are welcoming … . As a progressive Baptist, and a progressive Baptist church, I am always having to show the Baptist witness of acceptance in these situations because people don’t identify us as progressive as readily as they might other denominations.