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Reflections on Volunteering in Minneapolis


It has been 3 weeks since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the city in which I call home. Unfortunately, the senseless killings perpetuated from racism are not uncommon. The outcry for justice, though, has been very common across the United States and countries throughout the world.

The George Floyd memorial on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis is holy ground where people gather. Gather to pay their respects, gather to lay down flowers, gather with advocacy organizations and gather around food and water. The words and artwork are a balm for the wounds that I, a white woman, cannot even begin to imagine.

The past couple weeks, I have spent time volunteering at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church just blocks from the epicenter. Since George Floyd’s murder, Holy Trinity has become a sanctuary for demonstrators, a medic station for the wounded, a place of support for local small businesses and a pop-up food and necessity distribution site. Streets have been lined with cars with donations and greeters. Pregnant women and people with disabilities were accompanied, to ensure their needs were met. I heard so many touching stories over the week. One of them that stood out, especially as a youth minister, is the confirmation students who purchased detergent and collected all the quarters they could find, so people could still do their laundry.

Something else that stuck out to me is seeing a mother taking pictures of her daughter in her cap and gown. I went over and started talking to her and she said, “this is her history.” I pray for this young woman and her family. I also pray for our community, our country. I pray that this moment and these pictures are the time that she can tell her children and grandchildren that this was the turning point in our history. “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).


Kris Bjorke serves as the Service Learning Project Manager for the 2021 ELCA Youth Gathering. She lives in the Minneapolis area and enjoys drinking coffee with friends, being with family and pets, the outdoors, football and hockey games, travel (with a special affinity for National Parks) and quilting.


Intentional Chaplaincy Work in Minneapolis


This blog post was written by our 2021 MYLE team leader, Kelly Sherman-Conroy, and is in response to the chaplaincy work being done in the Minneapolis and St. Paul after the murder of George Floyd. She discusses the need for cultural competency before volunteering, so that we create a space of empowerment and comfort for those that need it.

According to Western Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children, “cultural competence is the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence encompasses being aware of one’s own world view, developing positive attributes towards cultural differences, gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views and developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.”


When local pastors, religious leaders and spiritual care leaders stepped up and took the call to help the communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul during the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, I don’t think they knew what they were in for. The call was not just about needing volunteers with shovels and rubbish bags in hand or handing out food and other supplies. The call for chaplains was very intentional.

As a Native American and an activist, I know first hand the harm that well intentioned people of faith can do when they come in to “help” communities that have been marginalized or minoritized. I remember at Standing Rock and the protests in North Dakota, a group of well-intentioned people of faith came to “help” and support. However, what many that came to help did not see, was that their own unintentional actions were creating more harm than good.  A deeper trauma than the trauma they were there to address.

So as a team of Rapid Response organizers met to address the needs of the communities during the uprising, this experience came to mind. How do we prepare a group of intentional volunteers that can be culturally aware as well as spiritually ready to care for all people regardless of beliefs? The call was made, and people responded.

I began with 4-5 Zoom trainings a day that talked about how to be culturally aware, understanding your actions, understanding the trauma many ethnic people were already coming with, what it is like to care for people in the midst of a large crisis such as this, and most importantly, non-violent communication for volunteers in the midst of a crisis. Their calming presence felt, and their aid was sought in helping other volunteers understand their actions.

So before you send out your volunteers to help in your community, find someone to lead in cultural awareness so that you are not unintentionally creating a space that is dehumanizing to those you are helping, but that you are creating a space that is empowering and comforting. Thank you to the over 100 volunteer chaplains for your work and intentionality.

Kelly Sherman-Conroy serves as the 2021 Multicultural Youth Leadership Event team leader and as Minister of Social Justice and Advocacy for CYF at Nativity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Kelly is a Luther Seminary PhD Candidate as well.