N. Mpls. community convenes to quell violence

| September 13, 2016 | 0 Comments
St. Bridget North Minneapolis

Attendees of the ecumenical Come Together prayer service get out of their seats to meet new people Sept. 11 at St. Bridget in north Minneapolis. The gathering was a response to an uptick in neighborhood violence. Jessica Trygstad/The Catholic Spirit

A group of people circled around a table in the narthex at St. Bridget in north Minneapolis the afternoon of Sept. 11. They were hunched over maps of north-side neighborhoods, determining where they would pray in the coming weeks and months.

In addition to signing up to canvass the neighborhood with prayer, people gathered in the church to hear messages of peace and calls to action from St. Bridget associate pastor Father Paul Jarvis and Pastor Paul Slack of New Creation Church, located about 2 miles south of St. Bridget. In recent weeks, the community has been rocked with shootings. Attendees lit 20 some candles to honor and remember victims of violence.

Telling the crowd of approximately 75 to commit to being “agents of peace,” Father Jarvis described the event as the beginning of a movement, guided by the Holy Spirit, to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and start conversations with others who are different from themselves.

“We are not gathering as a white community, we are not gathering as a black community, we are not gathering as a Protestant community, we are not gathering as a Catholic community . . . we are gathering together as the community of the beloved God,” Father Jarvis said.

The event was the first of what organizers — starting at St. Bridget — hope will be many Come Together services that include prayer, Scripture, music, reflections and conversations. Although the prayer service had been planned for weeks in response to an uptick in summer shootings, it came at a poignant time. Just three days before, on Sept. 8, stray bullets struck Sojourner Truth Academy, the K-8 charter school across the street from St. Bridget, and several cars in the church parking lot, which the school’s staff uses during the week. No one was hurt, and law enforcement says the shootings are gang related.

Doris McNeal, who attends New Creation Church, thought the gathering’s intent was to honor a specific person who was killed. Although she didn’t realize it was for the community, ultimately, she honored her son, who was killed on his way home from a friend’s house in north Minneapolis 10 years ago. She called the ecumenical prayer service inspirational and spiritual.

“I thought it was something good, something we all could relate to,” said McNeal, 57. “I felt something in my spirit . . . it’s just happiness. I say happiness because my son is watching me, God is watching me, so I have to show action to what they’re seeing.”

McNeal and her husband, Carlos, planned to sign up to pray for the Near North neighborhood, where they live, and the Camden neighborhood, where their young nephews live. Members of both congregations signed up to pray for north Minneapolis neighborhoods, which they’ll begin Sept. 18.

Alex Schindler, St. Bridget’s director of youth ministry, doesn’t live in the area, but said violence is part of life for the children in her groups. She served as cantor for the prayer service and said that while the world is experiencing vast violence, peace efforts can start on the north side to improve the community.

“We have to be that peace in the world and get out of our doors,” she said, “whether it’s in Woodbury or Edina or north Minneapolis.”

The next Come Together is planned for 4 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at New Creation Church in Minneapolis. For more information about Come Together, call St. Bridget’s parish office at 612-529-7779.

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