Today, we highlight reflections from Lutheran leaders in Minneapolis, where five people were shot near a demonstration outside the city’s 4th Precinct station on Monday, and additional shots were fired Wednesday morning. Marches, prayer vigils and rallies began Nov. 15 and continue to occur throughout Minneapolis. These protest actions are aimed at urging accountability in the justice system in response to the death of Jamar Clark, a 25-year-old black man who was shot by a police officer earlier this month.
The Rev. Ann Svennungsen is Bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod. She reflected on the support provided by Lutheran leaders in Minneapolis and her experience participating in a candlelight vigil last Friday.
“[Earlier this week,] I awoke to news that shots had again been fired in north Minneapolis. Three young men, seeking to protect a system of white privilege, shot five of the citizens who were protesting at the 4th Precinct Police Station in response to the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark.
The protest is now in its 12th day – an encampment of folks keeping vigil both day and night. While some of the demands have been met by officials, the protesters continue to call for the release of tapes that could reveal what actually happened to Mr. Clark.
In addition to those keeping vigil, many more are delivering blankets and hot food and words of encouragement. And dozens upon dozens of Lutheran clergy have shown up – in solidarity with those who suffer and caring for those most traumatized and sorrowful. Our synod – and the ELCA – has seven congregations in the vicinity of the 4th precinct and we continue to pray for their ministries.”
A candlelight vigil on Friday, Nov. 20, in Minneapolis
“Regardless of the tensions over the details, facts, and specific demands particular to the case; there is profound need for discussion of equity and racial disparities. Pain and frustration over unemployment, affordable housing, education, and basic city services – challenges felt especially in North Minneapolis – are all part of what compels the protesters to keep vigil.
This shared experience will strengthen us all for the long road of seeking justice together. We will pray for the family and community of Jamar Clark. And, we also pray for our mayor, public servants, police officers, the healing of the nation, for justice to be done. I believe we can do better as a city.
The vigil was a powerful experience. A unity of spirit and a sense of determination filled the gathered crowd. Out of this experience, your brothers and sisters in Minneapolis call on Lutherans around the country to enter into discussions about what would happen if a similar catalyzing event occurred in your community. How would your congregations engage those who were suffering? What message would protesters hear from your participation … or lack of participation?
Better yet, we encourage you not to wait for such a time – but to build relationships now, organize vigils now, read about systemic racism now, pray and work now for an end to injustice and the healing of our cities.”
Ian McConnelll, Louis Tillman and Kendrick Dwight at the demonstration outside Minneapolis’ 4th Precinct station
Louis Tillman, Ian McConnelll and Kendrick Dwight were present outside Minneapolis’ 4th Precinct throughout the week and participated in a number of peaceful demonstrations in the city. Tillman is a vicar, McConnell is a seminary intern, and Dwight is a Lutheran church leader in the Harrison neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Tillman was a few blocks from where five protesters were shot at the demonstration outside Minneapolis’ 4th Precinct station. “I was over on Knox and Plymouth … and I heard the gun shots rolling off. It sounded like the shooters emptied the entire clip! I kept telling myself ‘Lord have mercy!’ Then I called everyone from my church who [were] in the thick of things to ensure that they were all right.”
All three continue to show up at the ongoing demonstrations, with the goals of listening and community building in any way they can. “Even without all the particulars about Jamar Clark, his criminal history, or the release of video evidence from the night he was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, we as the ELCA have a voice that may be stronger than our silence,” McConnelll stated.
“We know something about grace and reconciliation. We pride ourselves on showing up after natural disasters and have the opportunity to show up after tragedies caused by human sin in our own neighborhoods. Our identity is rooted in the experience of being sinners and saints, all the time. And it’s time for us to leave what feels familiar and safe and show up.
We can’t change flawed systems ourselves, but we can listen to and support those who are grieving, struggling and afraid. We may not be able to topple oppressive systems (Jesus struggled with this too), but we can be allies with the oppressed.
We can both support police and hold them accountable, just like we can both confront racism and work for reconciliation.”
The ELCA social statement “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture” expresses our spiritual calling to confront racism, to engage in public leadership, and to advocate for justice and fairness for all people.
You can learn more about the ELCA’s commitment to challenging racial injustice at Racial Justice Ministries.