STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — With an overwhelming vote of support from members of its congregation, the Unitarian Church of Staten Island unfurled a “Black Lives Matter” banner on Sunday at the entrance to the historic building.
Following the worship service on Sunday morning, congregation members gathered outside the church on Filmore Street for a ceremony, which included 14 members reading short quotations from 14 notables, including Abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Rose Parks, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Beyoncé.
“The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly last summer asked all congregations to consider support for Black Lives Matter,” said Rev. Darrell Berger.
“We feel this action aligns with our Unitarian Universalist principles of the inherent worth and dignity of every person; and justice, equity and compassion in human relations,” he added.
Rev. Berger believes the New Brighton church is the first religious institution on Staten Island to display prominently a “Black Lives Matter” banner.
‘WE WERE FOUNDED BY ABOLITIONISTS’
“It follows our congregation’s history,” Rev. Berger noted. “We were founded by abolitionists in 1852 when anti-slavery was a bold and unpopular position.”
Many of the church’s members were Abolitionists, including George Curtis, for whom the high school is named, and the family of Robert Gould Shaw, who led the first black regiment in the Civil War.
“The congregation hopes this will be only the beginning of a deeper outreach into the community for justice and equality, partnering with organizations and creating public programs with similar goals,” Rev. Berger added. “The congregation also wishes to reach out to local law enforcement people with compassion and understanding.”
For many years the church has provided shelter beds for homeless men through Project Hospitality.
The congregation has strongly supported marriage equality and partnered with local LGBT organizations. The church was also a center for Hurricane Sandy relief, and housed many volunteer workers in its parsonage.
The church has been at 312 Fillmore St. since 1868, and in the present arts and crafts-style building since 1895.