PEI

Signs of the times: P.E.I. pastor stands up for Black community

The senior pastor at Tryon Baptist Church on P.E.I. says he’s sorry a sign on the front lawn was changed without his knowledge to read "All Lives Matter," and he wants to reassure the Black community the church stands in solidarity with them.

When someone changed its Black Lives Matter sign, Tryon Baptist Church's pastor took action

The sign at Tryon Baptist Church now reads Galations 3:28, which the pastor says 'really encapsulates everything that we stand for.' (Jonathan Schut )

The senior pastor at Tryon Baptist Church on P.E.I. says he's sorry a sign on the front lawn was changed without his knowledge from "Black Lives Matter" to "All Lives Matter," and wants to reassure the Black community the church stands in solidarity with them.

Jonathan Schut said he doesn't know who switched the sign.

"We're not really concerned with who did it or what their motivation was, but we do care about the people that it impacted," he said.

"And so we wanted to make sure that we responded well to what had taken place so that our brothers and sisters who may have been hurt by this change know that we do care for them."

Jonathan Schut, senior pastor at Tryon Baptist Church, says he's more concerned about how it made the Black community feel than who changed the sign or why. (Submitted by Jonathan Schut )

The "Black Lives Matter" sign had been displayed at the church since May, shortly after the death of George Floyd in the United States. Floyd was a Black man who died during an arrest in Minnesota. The white police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes has been charged with murder.

As a church leader with a public platform, Schut felt something needed to be said.

We want people to know that as a church, we stand for unity and we want to be there for people as they battle for equality​​​​​.— Jonathon Schut

"I started a short sermon series about the importance of Christian engagement with the topic of Black Lives Matter and the importance of the church standing up for racial justice and racial equality. And kind of just as a natural outpouring of that, it just made sense to me that we ought to change our sign to say 'Black Lives Matter.'"

After someone changed it to read "All Lives Matter," Schut said he decided not to put the "Black Lives Matter" wording back up in order to avoid a "tit-for-tat" situation. 

"I don't think it's particularly helpful to get into any kind of finger-pointing or casting blame. Instead, we just want to make it right and faithfully represent Jesus to our community."

Now the sign at the Tryon church simply reads "Galatians 3:28." That's a verse from a letter from St. Paul in the Bible's New Testament that says: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Tamara Steele, president of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I., says it's unfortunate some people still don't understand why changing a sign from 'Black Lives Matter' to 'All Lives Matter' would be hurtful to the Black community. (CBC News: Compass)

"We want people to know that as a church, we stand for unity and we want to be there for people as they battle for equality," Schut said. "And that verse in Galatians really encapsulates everything that we stand for and represent as a community."

Tamara Steele, president of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I., said she is happy with the church's response, but disappointed someone felt the need to change the Black Lives Matter sign in the first place.

"It's unfortunate that this far into, let's say, 2020, but also this far into the Black Lives Matter movement on P.E.I., there are still people that don't understand why seeing 'All Lives Matter' is hurtful to the Black community."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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With files from Angela Walker

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