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This past weekend I was in Minnesota at the invitation of St. Paul Mennonite Fellowship. They have an annual retreat at a secluded retreat center an hour north of the twin cities. The time includes input from a guest and planning for the coming year. I presented about transitions.
The congregation is small – eight covenant members. One member likened the fellowship to a base community, solidary groups that developed within Brazilian Roman Catholicism. They have had children amongst them in the past but now range in age from 50s to 80s. The fellowship was one of the first publicly LGBTQ-affirming congregations within the Mennonite Church. And they suffered the consequences. Begun as a mission church, their former conference cut off funding that had supported a half time pastor. None of the current members grew up in the Mennonite Church. Three are seminary grads. They are all committed to Jesus’ vision of inclusion and justice-doing. They care for each other well and have persisted. They have found a home within Central District Conference and are living into an identity beyond exile. The final communion service, gathered around a table, had echoes of that original small group of companions who had shared much together.
The retreat ended after lunch on Sunday and my plane didn’t leave until later evening, so one of the members showed me some sites around Minneapolis. He lives not far from where George Floyd was murdered in the summer of 2020 and our tour included a stop at George Floyd Square. The blocks around the Cup Foods corner store where the Minneapolis police first encountered Floyd serves as a living memorial to his life and the struggle for Black liberation. I snapped a picture that captures a bit of the spirit of the place.
Graffiti on the building across the street reads “Heal Invest Uplift Our Community.” Planters lining the curb hold flowers and are decorated with the words “I’m Black and I’m Worthy, Beautiful, Powerful.” The memorial was especially potent in the wake of another senseless police killing of a Black man in Columbus – Donovan Lewis.
From the sacred ground of a quiet retreat center among the trees to the sacred ground of protest and pavement, along with the faithful witness of St. Paul Mennonite Fellowship. That’s some of what I’m bringing back with me in my heart.