Pitts Chapel Speaks Out Against Hate Crime at Church
Rev. Tracey Wolff, pastor of Pitts Chapel UMC, addressed a large crowd of local media and supportive fellow pastors at the church on Friday, May 27, regarding a hate crime that occurred at the church the week prior.
Sometime late on the night of May 18 someone spray painted a black swastika on the south side exterior of Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church.
“A recent act of hate happened on our sacred grounds,” said Rev. Wolff.
Church leadership immediately contacted Springfield police. There is an open investigation into the hate crime. In collaboration with the church and police department, the Springfield Parks Board quickly removed the hate symbol from the church property.
“We can and should be tired of these acts of violence. There’s been enough of it in Springfield historically and in recent years, and we all know it,” Wolff said. “I pray that this gives us a righteous anger that propels us forward. I pray that it be a holy anger that helps us stand firm. At Pitts Chapel we love and trust our God. We know that no weapon forged against us will prosper. We know that Jesus Christ is our helper in our time of need. We’ve known this since our inception. It’s part of our DNA.”
Kai Sutton, president of the Springfield Chapter of the NAACP, joined Wolff for the press conference.
“We stand against all forms of racism and hate crime,” Sutton said. She referred to other events in recent years in which a swastika was painted on a home and a community center. “We’re going to call it out and say no more. These acts are not welcome, not here in our community. We’re going to continue to stand and ask for healing, prayer and most importantly love throughout our community.”
Pitts Chapel is the longest continuously worshipping historically African American congregation in Springfield. In 1847, a group of enslaved Africans started the church.
"A group of enslaved Africans starting a church is an act of resistance and prophetic witness,” Wolff stated in the press release. "From day one, our church has been engaged in racial justice and healing through Christian witness, community education and political consciousness and activism. We do not have a choice in standing against hate in our community.”
Pitts Chapel is currently in the middle of a capital campaign and renovation project to preserve the sanctuary so that they may continue ministry to the Springfield community. Online donations can be received at www.Givelify.com for Pitts Chapel United Methodist Church or mail a check to the church at 600 N. Benton Ave, Springfield, MO 65806.
“Though we are historically black, on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Pitts Chapel is becoming one of the most diverse places in town,” Wolff said. “We have zero space for acts of violence and terror. I want to make it clear that this is not tagging, it is not graffiti, it’s not vandalism, it’s a hate crime and it’s unacceptable.”