Challenged to Rise

Perhaps you remember Laura and Anders Wennstrom, or would like a personal viewpoint of NCFers who live 2 blocks from where George Floyd was murdered. Experience their family Benediction from this Sunday, and then read their update below. Be sure to read this news story for a witness of hope and an expanded look at what’s happening on their block. May we continue to be transformed in this time. -Renée

Dear family and friends, 

We wanted to write you a letter about our recent experience surrounding the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and how it has impacted our lives. (As if 12 weeks of quarantine wasn’t weird enough). There’s no way we can fit it into an email that you would want to read so we will try to keep it brief. 

On Memorial Day, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police 2 blocks from our home at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. On Tuesday, May 26, thousands of protesters began gathering on the corner and flooded our street. It was a moving display and we stood on our front step all evening with the kids watching people stream by.

Late Tuesday night, as anger increased the protests turned more destructive and the destruction, fires, and chaos continued into Friday morning. We believe that much of the destruction was not caused by those protesting George Floyd’s death, but were extremist individuals who used the crowds of protesters as a distraction to incite chaos and destruction. These nights were scary, we did not sleep as sirens wailed, helicopters hovered overhead capturing the destruction, and smoke filled the neighborhood.  

By now you have probably seen the news and have seen the fires and destruction and protests. The news has done an excellent job showing the destruction and righteous anger that is spreading throughout the country. This is true, our own neighborhood has suffered incredible destruction. Yet where we live, right in the middle of where George Floyd was murdered, we see a different story. 

By Saturday morning, the violence subsided as our neighborhood began an aggressive neighborhood-watch campaign. For nights on end, neighbors stayed up all night, drank beer, looked out for each other, and have banded together to provide for one another. 

Each day, we are seeing thousands of people, streaming in from all over the country, gathering at the corner of 38th and Chicago bringing flowers and signs and groceries. We have witnessed firsthand how scrappy the memorial space for George Floyd is – nobody planned for it, no organization or person is in charge, yet the space has gained global attention. 

We have been humbled by the kindness and generosity of our neighbors who have put their lives on hold to care for and amplify the voices of our black neighbors. They have challenged us to rise to the occasion.

Our neighbor Julia has orchestrated and ordered porta-potties on her personal credit card. Cameron has been on the phone non-stop with waste management trying to get the garbage hauled away. Terrell has been cooking countless pounds of meat for elderly neighbors (help Terrell with his living costs here). The list goes on. 

As Christians we know that Jesus aligned himself with those who were marginalized and we have suddenly been thrust into great opportunity to be allies to our neighbors. It’s complicated, awkward, messy, and kinda fun. We encourage you to come alongside of us and thousands of others to learn from our black brothers and sisters and support the work that needs to be done to dismantle racism. 

1. Learn. Two weeks ago, we were not having dinner conversations about defunding the police. Two weeks ago we did not know our neighbors’ names. Join us in reading and learning about racism in America and how it has systematically oppressed people of color over since slavery. We certainly have much more to learn and the truth is deep and complicated and multi-layered and actually quite fascinating.

Anders and I went to North Park with Austin Channing Brown and have been reading her book I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. [Renée just finished this on her retreat, and also hopes you will read it!] Laura highly recommends Austins’ show TNQ, especially Episode 6 with Brene Brown.
What have you been reading? 

2. Give. Neighbors have set up a GoFundMe to help the George Floyd Memorial space fund practical needs (trash, porta potties, sanitation, etc.) in the short term and long term find way to sustainably support and amplify the work of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at the intersection of 38th and Chicago. Or support the work of organizations in your area that support People of Color. 

We want to continue this conversation. We know that not everyone lives in a racially diverse area, but we are all able to learn and engage. We are learning that white people can learn a lot about racism from other white people. 

Much love to you all,
Laura and Anders Wennstrom
Service 6/21: Through Suffering to Liberation
Order of Service 6/21
Bulletin 6/21

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