Melissa Dewberry enjoys doing crossword puzzles, walking her cat and pondering ways to patch up the hole in the ozone layer.
Three years after malicious arsonists set fire to a predominantly African-American church in Springfield, Mass., it has risen from the ashes.
In 2008, mere hours after the election of the country’s first African-American president, “three white men crept up to the [church], blessed it corruptly with gasoline—and faded into the fresh November night.”
Immediately, the church’s pastor, Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr., was at the scene; his jubilation over the election of President Barack Obama quickly turned to sorrow over the blatantly racist act of arson.
Yet, as “he watched the new home for the Macedonia Church of God in Christ burn to the ground, Bishop Robinson imagined only one response: Rebuild.”
Two months after the fire “three white men in their 20s were charged with burning down the church to express their rage at the thought of a black president.” Two pled guilty and a third was convicted after trial.
“Unfortunately, it was a confirmation of my experiences as an African-American,” Bishop Robinson said, adding: “My faith teaches me to forgive, and I forgive them. But I cannot be accepting of their behavior. I cannot be victimized by hatred. So I have to move forward.”
Now, nearly three years later, a new, 20,000-square-foot church has been built atop the crime scene, its sanctuary walls “painted the color of a clear blue sky.”
While the rebuilding process was arduous and fraught with uncertain government loans, in 2010 the church secured the $1.8 million bank loan it needed to start construction.
Even with all he has accomplished in the face of hate, Bishop Robinson knows there is still work to be done.
Read more at the New York Times.