Houses of healing

1 year after George Floyd’s murder, faith leaders in Minneapolis reflect on efforts to help a community move forward.

For the faith leaders who operate in the Minneapolis neighborhood where George Floyd was killed last May, the past year has been one spent helping a community heal — regardless of their differences.

Calvary Lutheran Church sits just across from the entrance of George Floyd Square in the South Minneapolis neighborhood.

Calvary Lutheran Church sits just across from the entrance of George Floyd Square in the South Minneapolis neighborhood.

Rev. Pastor Hans Lee stands outside Calvary Lutheran Church.

Rev. Pastor Hans Lee stands outside Calvary Lutheran Church.

“We are a block away from where George Floyd was murdered,” said the Rev. Hans Lee, pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. “We have a strong racial equity focus in our congregation, and even have a Black Lives Matter banner on the side of the church building that has been there for more than five years.”

The illustration on the side of Calvary Lutheran Church was created by Ella Endo.

Congregation members greet each other with an embrace just outside Calvary Lutheran Church during the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration at George Floyd Square in South Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.

Pastor Hans Lee poses with members of his congregation and Community Table volunteers outside of Calvary Lutheran Church. From left to right: Ella Endo, Hans Lee, Felecia Boone and Scott Endo.

A couple sits next to a larger than life mural of George Floyd at George Floyd Square.

The illustration on the side of Calvary Lutheran Church was created by Ella Endo.

Congregation members greet each other with an embrace just outside Calvary Lutheran Church during the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration at George Floyd Square in South Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.

Pastor Hans Lee poses with members of his congregation and Community Table volunteers outside of Calvary Lutheran Church. From left to right: Ella Endo, Hans Lee, Felecia Boone and Scott Endo.

A couple sits next to a larger than life mural of George Floyd at George Floyd Square.

The illustration on the side of Calvary Lutheran Church was created by Ella Endo.

Congregation members greet each other with an embrace just outside Calvary Lutheran Church during the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration at George Floyd Square in South Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.

Pastor Hans Lee poses with members of his congregation and Community Table volunteers outside of Calvary Lutheran Church. From left to right: Ella Endo, Hans Lee, Felecia Boone and Scott Endo.

A couple sits next to a larger than life mural of George Floyd at George Floyd Square.

The illustration on the side of Calvary Lutheran Church was created by Ella Endo.

Congregation members greet each other with an embrace just outside Calvary Lutheran Church during the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration at George Floyd Square in South Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.

Pastor Hans Lee poses with members of his congregation and Community Table volunteers outside of Calvary Lutheran Church. From left to right: Ella Endo, Hans Lee, Felecia Boone and Scott Endo.

A couple sits next to a larger than life mural of George Floyd at George Floyd Square.

“The murder took place just two miles from the synagogue, three blocks from where I live,” Rabbi Michael Adam Latz from Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minneapolis told TODAY. “This happened in our neighborhood, where I live.”

The local Bahá’í community also was impacted by George Floyd’s murder; the Bahá’í Center of Minneapolis is located one block away from where it happened. 

“It stirred us to respond,” David Ingham, a member of the Bahá’í center, told TODAY. “Unity of humanity is such a central principle.”

In-person activities at the Bahá’í center were suspended due to COVID-19, but the center organized Zoom gatherings and online study sessions about racial justice and unity in the United States. Some members of the Bahá’í community regularly joined daily gatherings at George Floyd Square and coordinated volunteers to help at the site.

Hundreds gathered for the concert at the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration in South Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.

Hundreds gathered for the concert at the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration in South Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.

Many different faiths joined forces to participate in “Healing Our City,” a grassroots initiative of the Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement in Minneapolis. The goal was to help Minneapolis residents “transform their pain” through prayer and action. One facet of the initiative was “30 Days of Silent Prayer: Healing the Heart of Our City.” This month-long collaboration organized by former Minneapolis city councilman Don Samuels and his wife Sondra Samuels allowed people of all faiths, denominations, races and genders to come together each day and silently pray or meditate for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

“No matter what race you are or community you are from, our pain and suffering is communal,” Sondra Samuels said in an interview with Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. “And our healing has to be communal. That’s why we are here under the same tent. The tent is here to change us.”

At the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who was convicted of the murder of George Floyd, the Healing Our City Virtual Prayer tent was launched. Other outreach activities organized by interfaith communities included diaper drives, food drives, vigils, the cleaning of George Floyd Square and small gatherings for discussions about race and healing.

Crowds mourn at the spot where George Floyd took his last breath on May 25, 2020.

Crowds mourn at the spot where George Floyd took his last breath on May 25, 2020.

Hundreds participated in the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration on May 25, 2021.

Open mic at the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration.

The group Sounds of Blackness performs at the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration in South Minneapolis.

Common made a surprise appearance to perform alongside the group, Sounds of Blackness.

Hundreds participated in the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration on May 25, 2021.

Open mic at the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration.

The group Sounds of Blackness performs at the Rise and Remember George Floyd Global Memorial Celebration in South Minneapolis.

Common made a surprise appearance to perform alongside the group, Sounds of Blackness.

Candlelight vigil for George Floyd at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.

Candlelight vigil for George Floyd at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on May 25, 2021.

During times of extreme struggle and pain, many people lean into their faith and rely on prayer and scripture as sources of comfort. How can a community that has endured something like the murder of George Floyd truly be helped to heal and move forward? One pathway, Rabbi Latz said, is “to not rush to reconciliation.” Instead, he said, it takes time to let people of color process the harms they’ve endured and open up about them. 

“My job is to be a good, faithful partner … to listen deeply,” Latz said. “This is not my movement to lead. I am a partner in it.”

Pastor Lee agreed.

A couple embraces at the candlelight vigil on May 25, 2021.

A couple embraces at the candlelight vigil on May 25, 2021.

“We also were mobilized by this event to be a listening presence in the neighborhood,” Lee said. “Our posture, and our goal, is to … offer support when asked. …"

“We need to work toward a future where all people feel safe. We are all connected to one another.”