by Craig Dirkes
Members of the community joined more than 100 officers, soldiers and staff at the Minneapolis Temple, Minn., Corps on June 2, 2020, for a food distribution and prayer meeting, followed by a nearly two-mile walk to decry racism.
Emotions ran high during the walk which ended in front of Cup Foods, the site of George Floyd’s tragic death on May 25 which caused hurt and sorrow, sparked outrage and incited demonstrations in cities across America and throughout the world.
“When I heard that man call for his mother, I heard my own sons,” said a tearful Lt. Colonel Patty Richardson, who leads the Northern Division with her husband, Lt. Colonel Lonneal Richardson. “Mr. Floyd’s death was inhumane. It was senseless, and it goes against everything The Salvation Army stands for. But in all of that hurt, we are a people of prayer and we believe there is a God who can heal.”
Territorial Commander Commissioner Brad Bailey and other members of the Territorial Executive Council came to support the event calling for justice and equality.
“Racism is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian conviction that all people are made in the image of God,” the territorial commander told the crowd. “The Salvation Army believes that the world is enriched by our diversity of cultures and ethnicities and considers each life a gift from God to be cherished, to be nurtured, to be redeemed.”
The walk was led by Major Paula Pyle and Envoy Tonya Carlson carrying a Salvation Army flag adorned with two large white ribbons displaying Floyd’s name. Among signs calling for justice and kindness, several people also held signs that showed Floyd wearing a Salvation Army shirt; he’d worked at the Minneapolis Harbor Light in 2017 and 2018.
Prior to the walk, hundreds of local residents came to eat lunch and receive free groceries that were donated by the community. The food was a blessing to a 67-year-old woman named Carol, who has lived in South Minneapolis her whole life.
“I have never seen anything like what’s happened this past week. It’s hurting me,” Carol said. “But I love how everybody is coming together. Everyone is pitching in. It’s wonderful to see.”
Major Robert Viquez, Minneapolis Temple corps officer, is proud of the way his community responded to recent tragedies.
“There is more good than bad here,” said the major. “The negative stuff doesn’t count. What counts is the whole community pulling together to make Minneapolis greater.”
Editor’s note: In the last year the Central Territory appointed its first Social Justice and Urban Mission Secretary, Major Katherine Clausell, and announced plans to open a Social Justice and Urban Mission Center in Chicago which will be the prophetic voice of The Salvation Army in the Midwest and a force for justice and mercy in our cities. It will resource Salvationists and facilitate initiatives and strategies that enable leaders and corps congregations to ask big questions and to get involved in activities leading to real, sustainable change for individuals and communities. Salvationists also can find resources at the International Social Justice Commission website (salvationarmy.org/isjc).