The historic Washington D.C. church, St. John's Episcopal Church of Lafayette Square, was the victim of vandalism and arson earlier this summer. St. John's, located not far from the White House, was in the line of fire of the riots and demonstrations for racial justice in May, and was unfortunately subjected to arson when an unknown party set the nursery on fire.
In response to the violence affecting the church, St. John's begrudgingly agreed to board up their windows and fence off the property. A letter released to the church's congregation stated, "While we hate both the fencing and the boarded-up windows, one of our main responsibilities as rector and wardens is to protect the buildings. Our hope is to remove both the fencing and plywood as soon as practicable."
St. John was also the site at which President Trump forcibly removed a group of peaceful demonstrators, seemingly in order to have a photo op. The President posed in front of the Church with a Bible in his hand shortly after having the National Guard remove protestors, allegedly in a publicity bid to gain support. However, the effect was quite the opposite. Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, was outraged at the incident stating, "The President just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for."
Despite the misfortunes the church has experienced, St. Johns continues to maintain a positive attitude. Once boarded up, the church commissioned murals to be painted on the plywood over the windows. The reverend Rob Fisher of St. Johns explained in an interview that the project was completed with the help of a local arts group known as P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute, and aimed to turn an eyesore into "colorful images offering message of love, healing, togetherness and peace in Jesus' name."
The murals are centered around the Hebrew word Shalom, meaning "peace" and "Wholeness", and the South African word Ubuntu meaning "our lives are inextricably bound together." Amongst these themes of love and peace, are also images of racial justice. The idea behind the murals, as Fisher stated was that "while the nature of stained glass windows is to bring light and beauty into a room or worship space, we're able to flip that script by sending light and beauty outward to our surrounding neighborhood." Fisher also explained that despite everything going on in the world, the Church remains hopeful. "There has been an outpouring of love and support from people near and far and from all kinds of backgrounds since the fire, which we truly appreciate."