Church votes to remove ‘First Thanksgiving’ tapestry over it being 'disturbing, hurtful'

Churchmen in the New World
The "Churchmen in the New World" embroidery, first put on display at Plymouth Congregational Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1974. On Nov. 10, 2019, the congregation voted to remove it. |

A Minnesota church has voted to approve the removal of a large embroidery that has been on display since 1974 over the belief that it's racially offensive.

Plymouth Congregational Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota, voted Sunday to uphold the church leadership’s decision to remove the embroidery, known as the “Churchmen in the New World.”

A total of 372 church members voted against reversing the leadership’s decision to remove the embroidery, which was 16 feet tall and 25 feet wide, while 182 voted in favor.

The Christian Post reached out to the Plymouth Church for this report. A representative responded that the clergy could not return comment by press time.

In an email sent to the congregation that was forwarded to CP, church leadership explained that the decision was rooted in their “commitment to racial justice and our desire to be inclusive of all people's history.”

“We may differ on how that can be done, but the shared commitment has been visible at Plymouth from the beginning,” they stated.

Plymouth Congregational Church
A meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to decide whether to keep a large embroidery banner known as "Churchmen in the New World" on display. The church voted on Nov. 10, 2019, to remove the tapestry, which had been on display at the church since 1974. |

“[Sunday’s] vote is not the conclusion of our work but the continuation of work started at the inception of this church. Every generation is responsible for how this gets carried out.”

The emailed letter was signed by Paula Northwood, acting senior minister; Beth Hoffman Faeth, minister for congregational care and worship; and Seth Patterson, director of spiritual formation and theater.

“It is our prayer that this moment is seen as a gateway to who we are becoming and how we are learning to be loving, inclusive and caring people,” they added.

“It is our hope that we all will be invigorated to do more to welcome our neighbors, to be a comfort to each other in these uncertain times, and to embody the love of God into the world. This is what it means to be a covenant people.”

First hung in 1974 at the church’s Guild Hall, “Churchmen in the New World” was one of multiple embroideries created by a local women’s group called the Needlers.

In May, Plymouth’s Leadership Council announced that they were going to consider taking down the “Churchmen in the New World” embroidery and other displayed embroideries over concerns that they were “disturbing and hurtful to many people, particularly those outside of the white-dominated mainstream.”

Eventually, church leadership decided to remove “Churchmen in the New World” due to concerns that its imagery conflicted with the church’s progressive values.

“We made a commitment at our church a couple of years ago to really look at racial justice issues,” said Northwood to the Star Tribune.

“We could see, OK, our white privilege has kept us from experiencing these images in a way a person of color would. For many of us, it took the blinders off.”

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