Pastor’s letter – June
The shootings of 12 children in north Minneapolis in 2021, 3 in the St. Olaf neighborhood in the past month, has raised a cry for churches to do something. To some extent, asking churches to do something is a little like clutching at straws. Before we can do anything, we have to feel safe in the streets. I had to duck bullets last Saturday as I mowed my lawn. A St. Olaf member’s grandson was paralyzed in a drive-by shooting. A 6 year old munching on a hamburger in the back seat of her mother’s car died from her injuries. The first order of business is to protect the people of the neighborhood and the church so that we can love our neighbor. Without effective police protection, we are immobilized.
And yet political leaders are paralyzed by the quandry created by the “defund the police” movement. Defund the police makes absolutely no sense when little children are dying. Community leaders have established a “both and” approach which makes more sense – both reform and fund the police. But, there is still resistance and what the community does not need now is well-meaning people from outside the community tipping the balance toward defund. We need protection now.
As a church of the ELCA, we recognize that we have more potential assets than many of the African-American churches that are being called on to do something. We have begun discussions with the leadership of the Synod and the ELCA to allocate more funding resources in north Minneapolis. These bodies regularly allocate funds to reach goals within the church. We are making the point that, since the George Floyd upheaval of last year, racial reparations are the most worthy goal at this time. Goals of church growth will only fail if the ELCA does not address this most pressing need.
We have gone ahead with several activities to address the shortfall of family funds and the need for families to have structured activities for their children. These are costly and we are in discussions as to why St. Olaf always seems to be off the radar screen of funding allocations for north Minneapolis. An interesting fact is that Shiloh Temple came to St. Olaf’s assistance a couple of years ago when we couldn’t get on our feet after the fall of the nursing home. Shiloh Temple is a prominent African-American church in north Minneapolis.
Churches are seeing a falling off of attendance and membership in the wake of the pandemic. This is not a helpful phenomenum because churches are essential to the fabric of human society. Going forward at St. Olaf, we plan to be more vocal about the assets of the Christian church. Recognizing that there were past offenses of the Christian church is an essential part of the process, but so is moving forward. (continued on p. 2)
(continued from p. 1) The assets of the church are timeless and time offers no direction but forward.
The church carries that most important asset -forgiveness, upon which the realization of lofty goals depends.
Without a deep and thorough possibility of forgiveness, efforts to establish justice and non-violence become frustrating and even hopeless. The possibility of forgiveness through the power of the resurrection of Jesus provides the potential for hope and hope is what we need right now. But, churches need to be aware that without thoroughgoing self-examination and redirection toward the goal of justice and nonviolence, which right now is racial reparations, resurrection power is essentially unavailable. It has to be employed toward those whom Thurman has identified as people with their backs up against the wall, for that is the context our of which Jesus came and which gives the resurrection its power. And with that power, I have no doubt that we will be able to move the needle of human morality toward justice and nonviolence.
Peace…. Pastor Dale