UPPER WEST SIDE — A Unitarian Universalist church that had swastikas carved into its doors last week will re-dedicate its building at an interfaith vigil Friday — with its reverend defiantly calling the vandalism a sign the sanctuary congregation is "on the right track."
Rabbi Marc Margolius of the West End Synagogue, Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich of All Souls Unitarian Church, journalist Bill Moyers and Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal are among those slated to speak at the event being held at the Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York.
The gathering will give the church a chance “to make something out of a bad situation,” its Rev. Schuyler Vogel told DNAinfo New York.
“We’ve been given a lot of support from local congregations, nonprofits and government officials, so we thought it would be a nice idea to bring everyone together and re-dedicate the building,” he explained.
He believes the progressive church, which recently became a sanctuary congregation, was targeted for its social justice work and commitment to diversity.
“It’s a regrettable situation, and I think one that put a lot of people on edge, but ultimately the best thing about it is that it’s brought people together and brought a new awareness among people on the Upper West Side that we’re not going to tolerate this kind of thing as a community,” Vogel said.
Since staff members at the church discovered the swastikas and the phrase “race office” — a reference to Nazi party offices — etched into its wooden doors, they’ve been able to “significantly” reduce the visibility of the offensive images, Vogel said.
The woodworker who refinished the doors several years ago plans to examine them at the vigil on Friday, and the church hopes they’ll be permanently fixed within the next few weeks, the reverend added.
“Our goal is to kind of purge the negativity out there, and re-dedicate [the church] with the love of everyone around us,” he said. "It's also re-dedicating ourselves to the work of the church."
Police haven't yet arrested anyone in connection with the vandalism, Vogel noted.
The hourlong event will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Friday on the front steps of the church at the corner of West 76th Street and Central Park West.
“We’re trying to be a community that speaks up when others can’t, and uses what privilege we have to build resistance to a lot of these things that are happening,” he said.
“If we’re getting targeted for that, it probably means we’re on the right track.”