What follows is my monthly letter to the congregation, which is printed in our newsletter.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
– Romans 12:21
We lived in Crozet, a bedroom community of Charlottesville, Virginia for nine years between 2005 and 2014, while I was serving as the pastor of Crozet United Methodist Church. Tracy taught fourth grade for eight years in the neighboring Albemarle County public schools, and for one year, in the city of Charlottesville, at Johnson Elementary. Our youngest daughter Claire was born at the old downtown Martha Jefferson Hospital.
And now, it is somehow all different. On Saturday, East Market Street, the place where we once watched a parade, became a racial battleground. The Downtown Mall, where Ellen as a preschooler used to hold our hands and slide atop the fallen autumn leaves is now the place where Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist who had driven to Charlottesville from Ohio. The verdant golf course we used to pass on our way into town is the site of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of the Virginia State Police.
We were vacationing in South Carolina on Saturday, when the violence took place. It was heartbreaking to watch on television and the internet: this evil imported into our quiet little city. It was a helpless feeling being two states away while hell was breaking loose a dozen miles from our old home. I cannot imagine what it was like to actually be there, in the midst of it all.
That Saturday night, I had a dream where I was supposed to take a document to the University of Richmond, and when I arrived on campus, I realized I had forgotten the document. As I began to return home (for some reason, on foot), two students began to harass me. They followed me everywhere I went, trying to get away from them, hurling epithets, insulting everything about me, pushing me from behind, threatening violence against me.