After the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent unrest that brought devastation to south Minneapolis and my own Midway neighborhood in St. Paul, two Lutheran churches became the center of efforts to provide emergency relief to the community: Holy Trinity in south Minneapolis and Bethlehem in the Midway. Since it is just a few blocks from my house, Bethlehem is where I have volunteered some of my time over the past couple weeks.
The operation at Bethlehem has since been shut down, after one person who volunteered there received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. But while it was up and running, it was a sight to behold. A steady stream of cars pulled up to the curb outside the church, where a swarm of volunteers unloaded donations of groceries, household supplies, and personal hygiene products, which were carried into the church, sorted, and packed into bags to be distributed to hungry neighbors waiting in a long line to receive whatever was available.
If you have been wondering where God is in the midst of this crisis, Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the Midway was one of the places.
At the same time, I couldn’t help but think what a tragedy it was that any of us had to be there at all. Seeing what was going on at Bethlehem warmed my heart, but if I’m honest, it also made me angry. Why is it that we feel so good collecting donations of groceries to give to people in need but don’t feel outraged that so many in our community are too poor to buy groceries for themselves? Why don’t we show up in such force at the Capitol or City Hall to demand a living wage and stronger social safety nets? Though Bethlehem has now ceased operations, poverty in our communities remains—as does the need for us to wrestle with these questions and continue working for justice.