In late July a group from Decorah UCC sat around a coffee table asking what could be done to raise awareness about bullying in the community and, in particular, what could be done to educate people on addressing and preventing the cultures that allow bullying to develop. Remembering the Scarf Project that was organized for the UCC’s General Synod in Long Beach in 2013, that group around the coffee table wondered if something similar could be done in the Decorah community. By late August, the plans were in place and the Decorah Scarf Project was launched.
The premise was simple. Community members were invited to knit a rainbow colored scarf, and on October 1st the community was invited to a training session on how to prevent bullying in the community. Following the training, people who were willing to take an anti-bullying pledge and commit to doing something in the community to prevent and end bullying were invited to take a scarf and to wear it this winter. The hope is that brightly colored scarves create a bold, visible presence in the community, stir up conversation and awareness, remind people of their covenant and commitment, and help those being bullied to identify allies.
The response was tremendous. Long time knitters met to teach first timers. Kids as well as adults worked to create over 110 scarves.
I had the privilege to read and invite people to pledge to be a part of the movement. The pledge was as follows: I believe everybody has the right to live in a community where they feel safe, included, valued, and accepted. I will treat others with respect and kindness. I will act with compassion and not be a bully. I will act with courage and not be a bystander. I will use my actions, my words, my presence to support those who have been bullied and to let them know that they are not alone. As a member of this community, I pledge to be a part of the solution and to do something that actively contributes to ending bullying.
Ginger Meyette, a professor at the local college and friend of the congregation, said it well, “This project is visible and people can do something,” she said. “In the knitting of the scarf itself, you’re weaving a certain amount of yourself into that scarf, and then wearing a scarf that someone else made, it ties the community together in a way that some projects don’t do. Sometimes you feel like just an individual, trying to voice your views about things.”
It was a powerful project and one that is only the beginning of the work. Bullying is a problem in many of our communities and even in our churches. As the project in Decorah asked, what will you do to prevent and end bullying?
If you’d like a copy of the press releases, posters, organizing plans, or pledge to adapt in your own community, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would be honored to share. Pictured above are Laura and President of the college knitting group (the Norse Knitters) Jacqueline Congello who presented the scarves they produced.
Rev. Laura Arnold, Pastor of Decorah Congregational UCC