Rev. Ellen Petersen: ‘People of Huntington, we come in love’

  • Huntington Country Store.

Published: 9/22/2020 2:10:20 PM

I have attended dozens of rallies and vigils, all with like-minded people (seeking peaceful change.) With the exception of a few people who drove by shouting “Go home. Black Lives Don’t Matter,” our groups maintained a sense of unity and peace.

So I was not at all prepared when I attended a gathering at the Huntington Country Store on Sunday, Aug. 30. We were met with a crowd of people who verbally attacked us and shouted vile and demeaning words in our faces, including: “Take your hate and go back to your big cities you bunch of losers.” Ouch.

It saddens my heart to think that the people there believed that we came in hate. People of Huntington, we came in love. Our sole hope was to have a conversation about the consequences of referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus.” We were advocating for all Asian, not just Chinese people, who have been victims of hate crimes, ranging from toddlers to elderly grandmothers who have been spit on, beat up, verbally attacked and wrongly blamed for being responsible for the coronavirus.

I have heard people say that Hampshire County lives in a “bubble,” meaning that for the most part, we are progressive, liberal and radically accepting of everyone. Let me tell you, on that day, by bubble burst. It was shocking to be on the receiving end of such rage. My eyes were opened to the reality of division, and dare I say, even hatred that exists not just in our country, but in our communities.

This experience shattered my soul, so much so that when I was asked to say a prayer, I cried as I prayed. I explained that my tears were a plea that we all come together with open minds and hearts. I am still processing this, seeking to find a lesson. Maybe that experience is what we all need to witness in order for us to get out of our “bubble-thinking” and seek to understand people who have different values, opinions, beliefs, hopes and dreams than we do. In love and peace,

Rev. Ellen Petersen 

United Church of Christ


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