Snohomish County’s interfaith organization is calling on religious leaders to leave their pulpits Sunday to send a message.
They hope to fill to overflowing the Marysville church of Jason Martin, a black pastor who discovered a burning cross on the front lawn of his Arlington home early Wednesday morning.
"I think when somebody does an act like this, they’re not aware of the stir they’re going to generate," said Janet Pope, executive director of the Interfaith Association of Snohomish County.
"I want to show a presence of solidarity for Pastor Martin that this will not be tolerated."
The Rev. Kevin Bates of Advent Lutheran Church in Mill Creek suggested the idea, recalling a similar show of solidarity after a black church was firebombed in Chicago in the 1990s.
Bates said he knows what he’s asking. He has two services scheduled on Sunday, as well as two baptisms. He said he plans to leave during the second service and have a retired pastor complete it.
"Even if they were just at (Martin’s) church for the last 10 minutes, it would be a marvelous statement to say we’re unified," he said. "I think this is a way we can stand in solidarity, not only for what is right but to stand up against what is wrong."
In addition to leaders of local religious groups, congregation members are invited to attend Sunday’s 11 a.m. services at the Jesus Is Lord Life Tabernacle in Marysville, he said.
Tim Serban, director of spiritual care for Providence Everett Medical Center, said he, his wife and 4-year old will attend Martin’s service.
"We stand together against this act of ignorance and hatred," he said. "I appreciate what Pastor Martin said, that the community needs to come together and to transform this into an opportunity for change."
Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman of Temple Beth Or in Everett said he planned to announce the call for support for the Marysville pastor during Friday evening services.
Beating back prejudice takes more than slogans, rallies, buttons and T-shirts, he said. "It takes serious time for students and anybody of any age to think through why it is that they have those kind of feelings."
The Rev. Tom Quigley of Mukilteo, acting executive minister of the Washington Association of Churches, said while it’s important for the community to gather in a show of solidarity, more must be done.
"We can’t just be there on Sunday without figuring out what the church and faith communities of that area can do to respond to this problem in our culture," Quigley said.
Karyn Zigler, who works as a diversity analyst for Snohomish County, agreed. She helped start small study groups that met to discuss racism and race relations in 1997.
Zigler was glad to see the rallying of support for Martin, and those speaking up and saying, "Not in our town, not in our community."
"We need those voices, not just when something like this happens, but every single day," she said.
"We all know there’s subtle racism," she added. "But to burn a cross into somebody’s front yard, give me a break. Are we 1955 in the deep South?
"When people feel like they can be that blatant, that is scary to me."
Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or email@example.com.