Cranston temple, two churches together confront 'rising tide of hate'

The interfaith service will be Sunday at the Woodridge Congregational Church in Cranston.
The interfaith service will be Sunday at the Woodridge Congregational Church in Cranston.

With incidents of white supremacist propaganda increasing in Rhode Island, three Cranston religious congregations will gather Sunday to deliver a unified message: "Hate Has No Home Here."

The Woodridge Congregational Church will host the 10 a.m. service, joined by the First Korean Church of Rhode Island and Temple Sinai. The Rev. Scott Spencer, the Rev. Yonghwan Noh and Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser "will offer teachings from their traditions regarding racism, antisemitism, and anti-LGBTQ+ bias and discrimination," according to Spencer.

"Our church has invited the First Korean Church and Temple Sinai to join our regular Sunday worship as a way to come together to take a stand against discrimination," Spencer said. "Many communities in Rhode Island face a rising tide of hate, including homophobia, antisemitism, and xenophobia towards Asian American and Pacific Islanders. We want to send a faith-based message against such hatred."

The them of Sunday's service is communicated on a sign at Woodbridge Congregational Church.
The them of Sunday's service is communicated on a sign at Woodbridge Congregational Church.

"Hate has no home in our community," he said, "and, we hope, the wider community as well."

The religious leaders have heard stories from their members about facing prejudice, and they've discussed holding such a service for several months. The service is being held several days after the Anti-Defamation League released statistics showing Rhode Island had 142 reported incidents of white supremacist propaganda last year, a 74% increase over 2021.

Nationally, the ADL recorded 6,751 incidents, up 38% from 2021 and an all-time high, the Anti-Defamation League said in its annual assessment.

The incidents hit home for members of Temple Sinai. "There's a lot of fear right now in the Jewish community about antisemitism," Goldwasser said.

Incidents in Rhode Island last year included 15 to 20 people showing a Nazi flag and disrupting a reading of "The Communist Manifesto" at a reading room in Providence. Packages with antisemitic messages were also distributed on the lawns of Rhode Island homes.

More:Rhode Island saw a huge increase in white supremacist incidents last year. Who's behind it?

"I don't think hatred, bias and discrimination is new," Goldwasser said. "What's new is people's willingness to speak out about it publicly."

Goldwasser says it's important for members of the congregations to get together to understand what the others are facing, whether it's antisemitism, prejudice against Asian Americans or discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

"The only way we can really confront this is by seeing each other as allies," Goldwasser said.

The leaders of the three congregations talk often, and they've joined for services before, according to Spencer. For example, they have a joint Thanksgiving service. The First Korean Church also shares space with the Woodridge Congregational Church.

It's by design, Spencer said, that the service is being held during Lent, a time when Christians are "looking inward." He said, "I wanted to do something during Lent that has our congregation looking outward."

The service will "celebrate our diversity," he said, while increasing awareness that "there are people facing hatred and violence."

It might prompt some congregation members to check their own language or speak up when they witness something, Spencer said.

"We all have to work at it," he said. "None of us are perfect."

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: 'Hate has no home here' is theme of interfaith service in Cranston