While Trump and his alt-Right partisans are busily whipping up resentment and fear of folks with darker skins than theirs, a Mennonite church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, has launched a quite movement bearing fruit in signs popping up in yards and in store windows across the country.
For folks unfamiliar with the Mennonites, it’s a Christian sect sometimes described as Amish Lite.
The Amish and Mennonites are both anabaptists, folks who reject infant baptism and insist the rite be carried out only when the believer is able to make an informed decision, a belief that led to the religion’s relentless persecution in Europe, driving many Anabaptists to the British colonies in the New World, our own paternal ancestors among them.
Mennonites and the Amish share a renunciation of armed force, another factor contributing to their persecution in the Old World.
Unlike the Amish, not all Mennonites reject modern technology, though the conservative branches do.
But what unites the Mennonites is a powerful tradition of service to folks in need, most visibly in the actions of the Mennonite Disaster Service, which provides immediate and long-term assistance for disaster victims in the U.S. and Mexico, and the Mennonite Central Committee, which funds and staffs development projects in the Third World.
But with the resurgence fueled by the Trumpsters starting in 2015, Pastor Matthew Bucher wanted to do something, so he had a simple sign posted in front of his church.
And this a movement was born, Welcome Your Neighbors:
In August 2015, pastor Matthew Bucher wanted to share a simple message with the neighborhood around his church in Harrisonburg, VA. In the midst of a national dialogue that was strikingly negative about immigrants, Bucher joined with his church to put a hand-painted sign saying, “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” in the building’s front yard, in the three main languages spoken in the neighborhood.
Over the following months, Bucher shared the message with other local Mennonite pastors, and together they created the first design for the tri-color yard sign. The sign, designed to be brightly visible during campaign-sign season, spread locally around Harrisonburg as more people decided to share the message of welcome. Bucher and other members of Immanuel Mennonite Church printed up 200 signs to sell at the Virginia Mennonite Relief sale and started a Facebook page to help get signs to those in other locations. They also posted the PDF free on their website.
Since that time, interest has continued to grow. The original idea sparked many people in many places to print signs and become local points of connection for those willing to make this simple statement of welcome. From its beginning in a conversation on a Sunday morning, to its global reach today, the movement serves as a tangible signpost encouraging us to reach out to our neighbors, build bridges of connection, and practice hospitality through the open doors of our communities.
You can also order pre-printed waterproof yard signs with metal stakes here.
And with that, a sign of the times we can heartily endorse: