by Whitney Stofflet // June 4th, 2020

Dear Bethlehem Family-

Caring for others in need. This has long been one of Bethlehem’s core values. Even before those words were explicitly adopted by the congregation they were implicit in everything that the congregation has done for more than 125 years. Thanks be to God.

Over the past few days many of you have witnessed footage of the murder of George Floyd and been engulfed by the subsequent events that have shaken our city and our country.  It’s been heartbreaking. But through it all there have been glimpses of God’s activity. We’ve seen stories of hope and resiliency. We’ve seen neighbors care for one another. We’ve seen strangers and friends show up to clean up. We’ve seen love and resources generously poured into neighborhoods in Minneapolis and in St. Paul. Many of you have been a part of that work. Thank you.

We can’t begin to count the number of emails and calls we’ve received from all of you asking what can we do, what can Bethlehem do? How is Bethlehem going to respond?

This is why we love serving this congregation. When there’s a need, when there’s suffering, when this congregation sees something to do, we want to be there, we want to make a difference we want to help.

This is part of our DNA. It’s who we’ve been. We have a history of showing up and leading the way and being right there on the front lines. Whether it has been through natural disasters or responding to the growing Mental Health challenges or partnering with our siblings in Christ around the world, Bethlehem often shows up first and in big ways to help and to heal.

Thanks be to God.

But not this time. This time we need to wait. We need to follow. We need to listen. Because the change and the rebuilding and the healing that our city and our country is embarking on is not change that we can lead. The change that the Spirit is unleashing in our midst is not change we can direct. Make no mistake we have a role to play, but it’s not out front.

Yesterday all of your pastors joined hundreds of other pastors both white and black from around the Twin Cities in a silent walk of solidarity. We prayed together. We walked together. The black clergy was out front and we followed. The black clergy spoke and we listened. It was important and holy work.

One of the things that we’ve heard time and again over the last few days is that white people have some work to do, on ourselves. There are centuries worth of baggage that we bring to every conversation, every interaction, most of which we are completely unaware. We’ve got some homework to do.

To help us get started we’ll be working with Joayne Larson, founder of Sparks of Change whose expertise includes supporting communities to create space for conversations and learning around diversity and intercultural competence. Please join the Zoom conversation on Wednesday, June 10 at 10-11:30 am or Thursday, June 11 at 7:00-8:30 pm. Watch the weekly email next Tuesday for the Zoom meeting information. This is just the first step.

Now of course some of you have been at this work for a long time. As we learn we realize just how much we don’t know. So in the coming weeks we will continue to share resources for learning more, digging deeper and continuing to grow.

Of course there are immediate needs. Food to provide and more importantly financial resources to share. There’s places where we can do some sweat equity. We will continue to share those via email and social media. The needs shift quickly as the response continues to be rapid.

In the coming days and weeks and months that response will slow. It always does. So we’re in conversation with our partner churches and organizations to figure out how to continue to show up when people move on. We want to be in for the long haul. When this first happened we urged you not to be quickly consoled, and not to look away. We’re committed to not forgetting, to not chasing the next shiny thing. We are going to be a part of this work of becoming new together.

In Christ,

Mary and Ben