KENNEBUNK – First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Kennebunk reported last week that it had received several phone calls and an email criticizing and “denigrating” the Black Lives Matter flag that is often displayed alongside the American flag at its Main Street church door.

A participant in Sunday’s ceremony at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Kennebunk, displays a sign describing “true heroes.” Dan King photo

According to a Feb. 12 news release from First Parish, the Rev. Lara Campbell arrived at church on Sunday, Feb. 6, and noticed that the flag had apparently been stolen with the flagpole snapped at the base. Campbell, who serves as chaplain for the Kennebunk Police Department, reported the incident to the police.

One caller, prior to the vandalism, reportedly accused the church of supporting a “partisan cause” said Campbell in an email.

“No one owns this slogan,” Campbell wrote. “It is not copyrighted with an organization. The slogan has been used by many people, especially during marches mourning slain Black people such as George Floyd and many others. Some of those who contacted the church requested an All Lives Matter flag instead.”

The church responded by inviting its congregation and the community to attend a dedication ceremony for a new flag held Sunday, Feb. 13 at the church. With snow falling and traffic rolling nearby, Campbell addressed an estimated crowd of 150 that gathered at the intersection of Route 1 and Summer Street.

The ceremony paused momentarily when emergency vehicles, with sirens blaring, responded to a call. Without missing a beat, Campbell asked those in attendance to reflect on the safety of first responders and those awaiting their arrival.

According to the church, plans are underway to engage the community in discussions.

A new Black Lives Matter flag is placed at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Kennebunk on Sunday, Feb. 13. Dan King photo

“All lives do matter, of course,” said Marylyn Wentworth, chair of the church board, said in an email. “But Black Lives Matter is an important statement because of the killings, incarceration, and other injustices done proportionately far more often to Black people. We can only imagine the impact, especially during Black History Month, removing the flag has had on people of color in our community.”

“We welcome the opportunity to engage in the restorative justice process with the community as well as the individuals who criticized or removed our flag,” Campbell said.

A crowd of about 150 gathered Feb. 13 for the Black Lives Matter flag dedication at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Kennebunk. Church officials said a previous flag had apparently been stolen. Dan King photo

Dan King photo

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