Pastor Lisa Kerwin, Associate Pastor Jennifer Stephens, Miami Township Police Chief Mike Mills and members of EUMC talked about the Friday, June 19th, demonstration in Miami Township

By Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (June 21, 2020) — As was already reported here on Loveland Beacon Friday evening, June 19, 2020, the planned ‘Silent Witness” protest by an estimated 150 members and other supporters of  Epiphany United Methodist Church (EUMC) in Loveland was held in an orderly and peaceful manner.

This EUMC member bows his head in Silent Witness during the demonstration Friday, June 19, 2029 – Miami Township Police Chief Mike Mills can be seen also (Chuck Gibson) 

“I saw a very peaceful protest,” said Mills. “They abided by the laws. It looks like a very successful event. We’re glad they worked with us.”

 The Miami Township Police Chief was on hand at both the church parking lot where the members first gathered and prayed together. He was also standing watch with several other fellow Miami Township Police officers who were on hand during the demonstration in front of the United Dairy Farmer (UDF) store at the intersection of Branch Hill-Guinea Pike & Loveland-Miamiville Roads. The police were there to support and protect the First Amendment right of the EUMC protestors abiding by the traffic laws.

Miami Township Police Chief reacts to offer of support and gratitude from Eric Joseph & Tara Leigh Calderaro who came out to support police during the EUMC protest (Chuck Gibson)

“There’s probably 150 people and it was very powerful,” Mills said. “I think the majority of people who drove by honked in support. Had they blocked the streets with maybe 30 people because maybe not as many people would have shown up, they may have had a negative effect. It would have been unfortunate, what they are doing positively, would not have been relayed because of the illegal act of stopping cars.”

 Mills noted traffic flowed without interruption throughout the gathering near the usually busy Miami Township intersection. There was at least one car whose driver slowed to a near stop as he passed shouting and signaling obscenities, and calling the demonstrators “losers”, but a police officer quickly interceded to move him along without any further engagement. Ben Phillips was with Amanda Pynappel, a member of EUMC, who carried a sign bearing the message: “Love, not Hate” for a reason.

Amanda Pynappel carried a sign bearing the message ‘Spread Love, not hate’ (Chuck Gibson)

“Just to bring attention to everything that’s going on, showing that racism is still out there, and that we can do better for equality in general,” said Pynappel, whose unique last name comes from Dutch heritage, “I just want everybody to be treated the same, not just based on the color of their skin, or their sexuality.”

The Reverend Dr. Todd Anderson, District Superintendent for Ohio River Valley of United Methodist Church West Ohio Conference led the gathering in prayer at EUMC parking lot and then joined the group as they knelt in ‘Silent Witness’ together in Miami Township shortly after 6 p.m. . Anderson said the gathering Friday at 6:00 p.m. was one of eight that happened simultaneously across five counties in southwestern Ohio organized by the United Methodist Church. One of those was scheduled to happen at the United Methodist Church in Milford, Ohio. 

The Reverend Dr. Todd Anderson, District Superintendent Ohio River Valley of United Methodist Church West Ohio Conference led EUMC members in prayer priot to the demonstation (Chuck Gibson) 

The United Methodists nationally plan several actions in the coming days and weeks in their effort to “Stand Against Racism” and all forms of racial prejudice.

“This protest is a beginning to say listen there’s a problem,” said EUMC associate pastor Jennifer Stephens following the Friday evening demonstration.

Stephens says now it’s more than just “listen there’s a problem”, it is time to respond to the question: what are we going to do about it. It is time to begin working toward changing those things. She cited educating ourselves as one of those things to help create change. Reading books, listening to people of color, watching documentaries are three educational tools she suggested. It is just a beginning, but she was happy to see the community come out Friday evening. Kneeling in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds touched her heart.

Left to right: Lisa Kerwin, Pastor, Care Ministries, EUMC member Martha with sign, and Associate Pastor, Jennifer Stephens just before kneeling in ‘Silent Witness” Friday, June 19, 2020 (Chuck Gibson)

“It was more heartbreaking than anything,” Stephens said. “To kneel for that 8 minutes and 46 seconds is absolutely excruciating to think about that.”

Stephens says there is a message in taking action in the community of Loveland and Miami Township.

“There is racism here in Loveland,” she said. “There is racism in every city and every town in the United States. Nobody gets away from it. It doesn’t matter how far away you think you are from a city. Every single city, town and rural area in the United States has embedded racism. I hope they realize that.”

Her hope is actions like people took with EUMC Friday night will help open eyes for people to begin educating themselves,, learning and finally start fighting back against this racism.

Members of Epiphany United Methodist Church in Loveland gathered there Friday, June 19, 2020 ready stand against racism (Chuck Gibson)

“Continue to support people of color,” said Stephens. “Continue to support Black Lives Matter. . . because they do.”

Stephens says next steps for United Methodist Churches worldwide and across the United States is putting steps and actions into place. Each individual church in each community needs to take action as well. Epiphany United Methodist Church in Loveland has started a book discussion group called “White Fragility” as their first step.

 “That’s just a beginning,” Stephens said. “There will be more of those kinds of things, more education and just fighting against the injustices we continue to see with people of color.”

Members of EUMC of Loveland knelt with Pastor Lisa Kerwin in silence for 8 minutes-46 seconds Friday, June 19, 2020 iduring a demonstration in Miami Township (Chuck Gibson) 

Lisa Kerwin, EUMC Care Ministry Pastor had the megaphone and spoke to the assembly as they gathered in front of the UDF in Miami Township. She was one of the key organizers for the ‘Silent Witness’ protest event from the beginning when they planned to stop traffic for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This was a message about which she felt very strongly. The criticism which came fast and furious at the start of the week was upsetting to her, but may have served to strengthen her resolve.

“I’ll tell you, I actually had a bit of a nervous breakdown on Tuesday because of all the hate that we were getting,” said Kerwin. “That just goes to show us how much it is and that we have much, much more to do. We have so much more to do.”

There was prayers and there was action and it was peaceful Friday, June 19th, 2020 during the EUMC demonstration (Chuck Gibson)

Kerwin says it took a couple of Zoom meetings and a lot of tears shed by her to get to the Friday evening demonstration. She led the group of protestors in the grass on the corner of Branch Hill-Guinea Pike & Loveland-Miamiville Road in front of UDF and was first to kneel in ‘Silent Witness” against racial prejudice. She knelt with the crowd for those 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

“First, I was praying, but I was also feeling like it was a very, very long time and I can’t imagine someone’s knee on my neck for that long period,” Kerwin explained. “I can’t breathe knowing the knee on my neck right now.”

Click here to learn more about Epiphany United Methodist Church – Loveland

Click here to learn more the United Methodist Church Stand Against Racism

Click here for more on Miami Township, Clermont County

Please take time to view more photos from the Friday, June 19, 2020 demonstration in the slide show photo gallery below: (Photos credit-Chuck Gibson)