GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation placed a new “Black Lives Matter” sign outside their church after taking down an old one that was defaced several times.

The members of the predominately white congregation said it was important to replace the sign because the term “Black Lives Matter” is a way to help build bridges and end the racial divide across the country.

“We live in a community of diverse people and we need to recognize that we stand for everyone being included at the table,” said the Rev. John Marsh, interim minister at the church. “Faith communities live by symbols. This sign is meant to be a religious symbol of inclusion and welcome.”

The church installed a Black Lives Matter sign in 2015 but took it down after it was vandalized several times.

Now, the church has put up the new sign and has prepared several more just in case this one has to come down. It also installed security cameras to try and catch anyone who attempts to vandalize the new sign.

Local civil-rights activists who spoke at the church commended its members for standing with the black community.

The Rev. William Williams, pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Atlantic City, told the congregation during a prayer service the goal is to build bridges and have a conversation.

He also spoke of educating children about black history and the meaning behind the Black Lives Matter movement in school more than just during February, Black History Month.

Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz told the congregation the sign is a bigger deal than most people realize.

“This is a tremendous, symbolic gesture of unity,” he said. “It’s more than a sign. It’s a symbol of the commitment that this church has to justice and equality. And that is something that is important.”

Shabazz said he applauds their courage for putting up the sign.

“You can believe that other people will take a cue from you,” he said. “They may not have the courage to put up a sign, but it’s going to move them closer to being united.”

Contact: 609-272-7260 Twitter @ACPressDeRosier

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