In August 2015, Immanuel Mennonite Church pastor Matthew Bucher wanted to share a simple message with the neighborhood around his church in Harrisonburg, VA. In the midst of a rather negative national dialogue about immigrants, Bucher joined with his church to put a hand-painted sign saying, “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” in the building’s front yard, in the three main languages spoken in the neighborhood.
Over the following months, Bucher shared the message with other local Mennonite pastors, and together they created the first design for the tri-color yard sign. The sign, designed to be brightly visible during campaign-sign season, spread locally around Harrisonburg as more people decided to share the message of welcome. Bucher and other members of Immanuel Mennonite Church printed up 200 signs to sell at the Virginia Mennonite Relief sale and started a Facebook page to help get signs to those in other locations. They also posted the PDF free on their website.
Since that time, interest has continued to grow. The original idea sparked many people in many places to print signs and become local points of connection for those willing to make this simple statement of welcome. From its beginning in a conversation on a Sunday morning, to its global reach today, the movement serves as a tangible signpost encouraging us to reach out to our neighbors, build bridges of connection, and practice hospitality through the open doors of our communities.
Pastor Matthew joins us for a lecture and question & answer session around the theme of welcoming neighbors. Come be part of the conversation at 4:00 PM on Sunday, April 23 at Sunrise Church of the Brethren, 1496 S Main St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801. A free-will offering will be received to support the mission and vision of the Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center.