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Ministry of presence amid protests

Ministry of presence amid protests

Ministry of presence amid protests

                        In Minneapolis, The Salvation Army was a calming presence on the streets, offering water, sandwiches, music and prayer.

As unrest spreads across the United States after the death of George Floyd, The Salvation Army continues to advance the message: hope is greater than fear. 

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Salvation Army has been offering water, sandwiches, music and prayer to passersby. A prayer walk took place on Tuesday 2 June, with participants praying for peace, justice and community restoration. Salvation Army workers have also offered prayer outside Minneapolis Temple Corps. 

Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder, USA Western Territorial Commander, shared on Twitter: “Our human answers to the pain and injustice we see and experience are simply not enough. God’s answers are eternal and powerful. Micah 6:8 ‘... What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd.”

The commissioner led a time of prayer for peace on 29 May.

“The events of the last few days in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have shocked us all,” he said. “The brutality that we have witnessed is not only inconsistent with the values and aspirations that we hold as Americans, but they are inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we as Salvationists proclaim, so it seems appropriate this morning that we should gather as a people of God, and to pray for peace.”

The commissioner visited the corps in Santa Monica, California, where facilities were vandalised and broken into, and reassured the corps officer, Lieutenant Erin Wikle.

“Many have called or texted to check in on us. We are okay. It’s been an incredibly overwhelming afternoon and I can’t quite describe how I feel,” Erin posted on Facebook. “Our 4th and 5th Street facilities have been vandalised (graffiti), our 5th Street facility suffered a shattered window and our commercial kitchen trashed. No one was injured.”

The Salvation Army handed out bottles of water and snacks while volunteers cleaned up the streets of Sacramento.

She drove past the rioting and looting to get home.

“I don’t tend to feel afraid often. But today, I was afraid,” Erin wrote. “My heart aches for those who are deeply hurting. My heart hurts for those so beaten down by racism and generations of oppression and abuse. My heart hurts for all those deeply, deeply hurting. Today I’ve wrestled with my own bias and prejudice. My own anger and grief ... tonight, I prayed over our staff during an urgent Zoom call, that the Holy Spirit would settle over our city ... bringing peace like a blanket weighing down all anxiety over an unsettled people.”

Reports of vandalism at Salvation Army locations also included the Oakland Adult Rehabilitation Centre in California. 

Representatives were distributing water and snacks in downtown Sacramento as volunteers helped clean up the streets. 

“[As we walked] up and down the streets, so many people from all different kinds of backgrounds were coming together to clean up this beautiful city,” said Del Oro Divisional Commander Major Ivan Wild in a video from the effort. “I was just passing out water and all of a sudden I found a broom in my hand and so I started sweeping up the glass as well.”

The same is happening in Denver. 

“It’s nice to be here to be a part of the community and help clean it up with those who are out here helping,” said Rachael Fowler, Intermountain Division PR and Special Events Director, in a video posted to the division’s Facebook page. “There’s a lot of good going on today and we’re happy to be a part of it.” 

In Seattle, Washington State, The Salvation Army relocated its emergency shelter usually housed at Seattle City Hall, due to building damage. The Army has also reached out to Seattle police and fire departments to offer support and has all Seattle-area corps on standby to do just that.

In Southern California, The Salvation Army reached out to all county emergency operating centres on 1 June to extend support and will be providing 350 hot dinners for the next two nights at a Los Angeles police station.

Lieutenant Melissa Jones, Santa Clarita Valley Corps Officer, posted to Facebook on 29 May a 3D photo from a protest in Santa Clarita after the sheriff’s department asked local clergy to come and help keep the peace.

“I am so glad I got to stand up for my people and the oppressed today!” she wrote.

Melissa shared from her own life experience in a recent [Salvation Army] Caring Magazine article in which she said, “this is not merely a black issue; this is an Imago Dei issue.

“If we fail to recognise the precious image of God that is imprinted on all of us, we have failed to love as God has called us to. We have failed to live as Christ lived. That is not a failure I want to live with,” she wrote in Caring. “We must change, not because it’s popular or because we want to be more welcoming. We must change because that is what God has called us to do. He has called us to transform the world, not to conform to it. We have conformed for far too long, and we can no longer be silent. Not only will more people die, or be imprisoned, or simply looked over. Your silence will continue to affirm that we, black people, are different and less than. Your silence will continue to chip away at the soul of this nation, and at our souls as black folks.”

Over the weekend, the International Social Justice Commission also re-shared The Salvation Army’s International Positional Statement on Racism. It reminds us: “Racism is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian conviction that all people are made in the image of God and are equal in value. The Salvation Army believes that the world is enriched by a diversity of cultures and ethnicities.”

This article first appeared in the New Frontier Chronicle.



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