Local Faith Communities Respond to COVID Crisis and Aftermath of George Floyd Murder

By Stephen Birch


Minneapolis Friends Meeting has also found new ways to connect, during COVID-19. “This has really turned out to be a time of growth and connection for Minneapolis Friends Meeting. Our community really came together and established several ways we could stay connected,” said John Kraft, a Clerk at Minneapolis Friends. They host Sunday Worship Services via Zoom, as well as a mid-week Worship and a Friday drop in “Coffee.” In addition, they have continued community activities like writing groups, study groups, journaling, and deepening groups. They have also made it a point to reach out by phone to those who may not have the ability or inclination to Worship virtually. “I honestly hope we can continue this level of community engagement even after we are able to start to meeting again in person,” said Kraft. “I know we are working on ways we can continue the virtual environment alongside the in-person environment, so we can continue to be inclusive of those who are not easily able to travel to the Meeting house.”

Linden Hills is home to multiple faith communities and the COVID crisis has certainly impacted the ability of the communities to gather and meet.  We recently asked some of our local faith communities how they are responding to the events.  For faith communities that historically center on the ability to meet and worship in person and as a community the past few months have been a trying time and at the same time it has forced communities to try something new.    

Rector Lisa Wiens Heinsohn of St. John’s Episcopal Church commented: “Keeping our community connected and spiritually nourished even though our building is closed has been a top priority during the pandemic. We have online Sunday worship in two formats, various ways to connect virtually on other days, weekly email communication and regular contact from “Care Circle” members to everyone in our congregation to ask how folks are doing and if they need any help. In all these ways, we are seeking to practice our faith outside the walls of our building.”

 Barbara Staats of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Parish echoed similar thoughts as the Catholic parish moved services and religious education to online formats to allow member to continue to participate.    St. Thomas the Apostle also has employed two rounds of contact calls to all parish homes to ensure people are connected and to assess their needs.  Parish members expressed a strong desire to engage in worship and the parish responded with the online Mass initially offered through the parish website and now also available on Facebook. 

Jodi Kent, Clerk at Third Church of Christ, Scientist said “The Christian Science Church in Linden Hills has been offering Zoom Sunday church services, Sunday School and Wednesday evening testimony meetings throughout the sheltering at home period. While using this technology for our services is new to us, it has actually enlarged our ability to embrace members, friends and visitors not only in our own community but across the nation. The message of God’s healing love and care for all His children is particularly important and relevant to people right now – bringing some new measure of peace, inspiration, encouragement and healing to the lives of those who in increasing numbers have been joining in our church community each week.”

The observation that the transition to online services has enlarged participation is also shared at St. Thomas the Apostle.  Faith communities see the expanded participation as good news in that people are demonstrating the desire and need to remain connected, albeit in a different form.   As the situation changes with the COVID restrictions faith communities will continue to evaluate transitions back to services in their buildings as the situation dictates.  

The murder of George Floyd and subsequent civil unrest in the city has introduced to all communities a question about how to respond and with no textbook solution they are responding as they can.    

St. John’s Episcopal Church’s Lisa Wiens Heinsohn says “We are responding to the pandemic and to the horrific killing of George Floyd as a faith community. St. John’s understands this pandemic, and the terrible murder of George Floyd with ensuing protests and destruction, as truly a “wilderness” time to use a metaphor from the stories of Judeo-Christian tradition. During these times there is no map, but there is an invitation to learn what “enough” means and how to share what we have with others. We recently completed a $2 million capital campaign in which we are donating a tithe of 10%—$200,000—of collections over five years to neighbors in need. Since the pandemic started we have donated $10,000 to Liberty Church’s 21st Century Academy to help provide food and resources to families in North Minneapolis who need it; we also donated $5,000 to the Bridge for Youth in Minneapolis which provides shelter to homeless teens. We are beginning an initiative to provide food to some of our Latinex brothers and sisters in Christ who have lost income and jobs with no social safety net. And since George Floyd’s murder, our members are very active—marching; donating groceries, cleanup help and money; and helping our partner church in North Minneapolis board its windows to protect their building during the protests and property destruction of last week.

St. Thomas the Apostle is responding by increasing giving to existing relationships with Catholic Charities, Simpson Housing and Meals on Wheels.   The strong existing relationship between St. Thomas the Apostle and the charities mentioned is allowing for greater ability of those organizations to deliver on their programs that are firmly established.   The relationship between St. Thomas the Apostle and Simpson Housing covers both meals and material needs for their shelter as well as support to families transitioning from shelters to apartments.  Barbara Staats said that the parish is continuing to explore more opportunities to work with groups in south Minneapolis  

The response of Linden Hills faith communities offers a positive example for those in the neighborhood.  

For more information on faith communities in our neighborhood:

St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Parish

St. John’s Episcopal Church

Linden Hills United Church of Christ

Third Church of Christ, Scientist

Lake Harriet Spiritual Community

Minneapolis Friends Meeting (Quakers)

Grace Gospel Bible Church