Today was another Sunday for Molly and me in a black church on the northside of Minneapolis. We go there a fellow Christians. If anyone asks, we say we are “Visiting Christians.”
Zion Baptist Church is an unabashed charismatic “spirit-filled” Christian company. They sing loud, raise hands, pray earnestly, and preach truth – about God’s love for all people and His ready forgiveness through sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the calling of Jesus to follow Him into the hurting world, where wounded people have done terrible things to each other.
It put us back in the world of genocide, where in Rwanda and Burundi neighbors killed neighbors, and World Vision helped us find ways to take Jesus’ forgiveness into those lands of blood as a pathway to reconciliation, and healing – 20 years of wonderful work, not only in Rwanda and Burundi, but also in Eastern Congo, in Uganda, in South Sudan, in Ethiopia, and Kenya, in Tanzania, Lesotho, and South Africa. God even helped us bring it home to Minnesota, and New Hampshire, and Minneapolis. Work that is still going on, and expanding under the successor leadership of Todd and Mary Bertelson, and Dr. Jim and Annette Olson.
With other pastors and people, Jim Olson and a host of friends, the idea of a “21 Days of Peace” was born on the north side of Minneapolis.
On September 8, 2021, The Washington Post published the story by two north side leaders, Louis King and Jerry McAfee, of this shrewd, simple, faithful approach. Here are excerpts:
“On May 28, Gloria Howard, an elder with Shiloh Temple, opened a lawn chair and sat down on one of the most dangerous street corners in North Minneapolis. Every day since, as part of the 21 Days of Peace community organizing project, she and others like her in our city have sat on street corners that are threatened by violence. Through the simple act of publicly taking a seat – staking their claim to a peaceful neighborhood by interrupting violence – they have undoubtedly saved lives.”
“Being a violence interrupter isn’t the only answer, but it is clearly helping in Minneapolis.”
“Our group asked the Minneapolis Police Department to identify the most dangerous spots in our neighborhood, the 4th Precinct, and then we went there, pulled out our chairs and sat down. For the past three months, we have conferred daily with the precinct about the number of volunteers (two to 15, usually) and hours needed. We work in shifts, using a sign-up log online. In the winter, we’ll work on relationship-building with young people in the community.”
“The city’s overall violent-crime statistics have improved across the summer. In June, homicides in Minneapolis declined from June 2020, the first such drop this year. Then the same thing happened in July and August, according to the Minneapolis Police Department. Rape and aggravated assault also declined year-over-year in June and July. We hope the conspicuous effort at violence interruption in the Northside has had a ripple effect across the city.
“What makes this simple act of sitting apparently so powerful?
“The people sitting on these corners in their chairs are members of the community. We know our young people, and they know us. But more important, we represent one of the strongest bastions of moral authority left in these areas: the Black church. We draw on the power of congregation—of family, of friends and of community—to try to interrupt the violence. And our faith gives us the courage to put ourselves in harm’s way.
“We are encouraged by what we’ve achieved in Minneapolis, and we take heart that we are not alone. Groups in the city such as MAD DADS and A Mother’s Love have joined us in taking a stand.”
“We’re not declaring victory, by any means. But as elected officials look for answers to end the violence, they would be wise to pull up a chair and take a look at what’s working.”
We haven’t taken a lawn chair to a street corner, but every few weeks we take our bodies to a pew at Zion to hear a passionate word of love from the Lord through Rev. Brian Herron and take a step of “presence” toward our comrades in Christ, who welcome us. A very small step with Jesus. You’d be so welcome to come along.
Love to you and fellow followers,
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES