ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A St. Paul pastor says he never expected his annual church picnic would be the center of a controversy. This year, Summit Church decided to go with the theme, “Love The Police.”
That didn’t sit well with some members of the group Black Lives Matter, so the pastor decided to re-name the event, calling it “Love The Community” instead.
“If your calling is to be a bridge, don’t be surprised if people walk all over you,” Pastor Joe Anderson said.
Anderson says several protesters from the St. Paul chapter of Black Lives Matter interrupted a Sunday service two weeks ago to read of the names of people killed nationwide by police officers.
“A good thing and a good statement with the best of intentions can be heard differently,” the pastor said.
Anderson says after the disruption, he met with a protester and a family member of Marcus Golden, who was fatally shot by St. Paul Police in January. After a lot of prayer and conversation, he says he decided to change the name of the event to “Love the Community.” He says the day was always intended to bring people together, and it did.
“I think that’s an example of what we needs more of people sitting down and listening to one another,” Anderson said.
Trahern Crews from the Black Lives Matter group says they aren’t anti-police, they just wanted the event to feel inclusive.
“The church, and all of us, should be thinking about the least amongst us — the most powerless people,” Crews said.
Pastor Runney Patterson of a different church on the east side of St. Paul says he didn’t find anything wrong with “Love the Police,” but knows church is a place to talk through dark times.
“Not that I downplay what has happened between young black men and police, but anytime a young black man loses his life it ought to matter, not just because it involves police,” Patterson said.
Several members of law enforcement and first responders were still at the event and were welcomed with gift bags.
The Black Lives Matter spokesperson said no one else from that group attended the church picnic today, although they were all invited. He says everyone had prior engagements.