Dear Citizens of Scotch Plains and Fanwood:

In the days since the murder of George Floyd, our country has been reminded of the ongoing epidemic of systemic racism and police misconduct towards the black community and people of color. As faith leaders, we are obligated “to not stand idly by the blood of your neighbors (Leviticus 19:16),” so we condemn this murder in the strongest possible terms, as well as the unjust accosting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and all instances of race-driven violence. Our country was founded on the principle that all people are created equal, a position that is rooted in all faith traditions. 

The outcries that have taken place in this country over the last week are examples of the best and worst of humanity. Righteous anger and peaceful protests have been the driving forces for social awakenings and changes in our country since its founding and are the primary language to stand up against hatred and oppression. The peaceful protests that took place in Newark and across New Jersey, where police officers marched alongside protesters, are examples we should all be proud of as residents of this great state. 

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Tragically, this was not the case in many other cities across the country where peaceful protests were overshadowed by looting and destruction of property. These actions are not in line with values of faith, and we condemn all those who took advantage of this moment. Ephesians 4:26-27 teaches, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.”

Unfortunately, peaceful protests against racism have not been effective enough leaving many with a sense of helplessness and anger that can boil over into violence. During tense moments, actions of self-defense do not always remain non-violent whether from protestors or the police. Still, we always urge restraint and for all parties to refrain from the violent responses that took place in many instances this week. We call for investigations and prosecutions of all those who used excessive violence among both rioters and police authorities. Only a return to peaceful dialogue and protest will provide the foundation to create the systemic changes our country needs to move forward in matters of race and justice, including legislation and practices which will hold civil servants more accountable to the law, and to serving the needs of "the most challenged of our brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:40).” 

Sadly, racism is not a new problem in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, but is one that we have confronted multiple times in past years. Following a racial incident in 2009, the Ministerium helped bring the community together, leading to the creation of Social Justice Matters. As a Ministerium, we meet regularly with the Mayors, Councils, School Board, and Police Chiefs of Scotch Plains and Fanwood, and are represented on the Joint Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Committee. We continue to lift up our call for all of our community to engage in the hard work of confronting racist structures and behaviors with serious self-reflection, honest and safe conversation, and a commitment to personal change.

Our faith traditions continue to guide us in speaking out on all matters of justice. Prophets of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament preach time and again the importance of pursuing justice and equality. The Prophet Micah teaches, “He has told you, O humanity, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness (Micah 6:8).” Amos reminds us to “let justice well up like water, righteous like an unfailing stream (Amos 5:24).” John teaches, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17).” 

As people of faith, we are called on to raise our voices against oppression and in support of justice. We urge everyone in all our communities to raise their own voices and to stand alongside those doing the sacred work of protesting racist violence and brutality from wherever it comes.

Members of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Ministerium

  • Rabbi Howard Tilman, Congregation Beth Israel / Ministerium President
  • Rev Vijaya Kumar, First United Methodist Church of Scotch Plains / Ministerium Vice President
  • Rev. David Jahnke, Fanwood Presbyterian Church
  • Rabbi Joel N. Abraham, Temple Sholom / Ministerium representative to SPF TRHT committee
  • Leland S. McGee, J.D., M.S.Ed., Vice President, Social Justice Matters, Inc.
  • Mayor Al Smith, Scotch Plains
  • Dr Joan V. Mast, Superintendent of Schools, Scotch Plains-Fanwood Public Schools
  • Chief Theordore Conley, Scotch Plains Police Department
  • Chief Richard Trigo, Fanwood Police Departmant
  • Rev. John J Paladino, Pastor, St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church
  • Shawn T. Wallace Sr., Senior Pastor, St. John’s Baptist Church of Scotch Plains
  • Pastor William C. Page, Terrill Road Baptist Church
  • Rev. Chaz Hutchison, Scotch Plains Baptist Church
  • Chris Morante, Senior Pastor, Evangel Church
  • Susanna Cates, Rector, All Saints Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Ann Marie Alderman, First Unitarian New Jersey
  • Pastor Douglas McCulley, Scotch Plains Christian Church
  • Ayaz Aslam, Muslim Community Center of Union County
  • Kim Decker, CEO, Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA
  • Mike Goldstein, Executive Director, JCC of Central NJ
  • Rev. Howard Bryant, Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council
  • Alexander Mirabella, Municipal Manager, Scotch Plains, Union County Freeholder Chair
  • Margaret C. Heisey, Deputy Municipal Manager, Scotch Plains
  • Kathy Mitchell, Councilwoman, Fanwood
  • Jamie Pedinoff, President, Fanwood Rescue Squad
  • Elaine Coupe, Director of Community Outreach, St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church
  • Cantor Matt Axelrod, Congregation Beth Israel
  • Rev. Steve Allen, BSA Troop 33 Chaplain / Terrill Road Baptist Church
  • Rev. Dr. Kenneth J. Macari, Fanwood Presbyterian Church
  • Judith Wussler, Fanwood Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Bernard F Johnson III , Holy Trinity Christian Church / St John’s Baptist Church
  • Paul Milan, Director of Music, St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church
  • Pastor Jessica Furino, Koinonia Pastoral Counseling
  • Mary Claire Givelber, Director of Community Engagement, Caring Contact
  • Sidney Blanchard, Associate Executive Director Community Relations, Community Access Unlimited
  • Cantor Darcie Naomi Sharlein, Temple Sholom
  • August Ruggiero, Willow Grove Presbyterian Church