On any given Sunday, the pews are full at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in North Minneapolis. But on June 24, it was standing room only.
As scores of Twin Cities residents blocked the annual Pride Festival parade on Sunday to protest police presence and the shooting death of a Black man, many more attended church services to pray for peace.
Parishioners packed the sanctuary hoping for a peaceful resolution after a Minneapolis police officer reportedly shot and killed 30-year-old Thurman Blevins Saturday evening following a brief foot chase.
While the investigation is still ongoing, detectives say Blevins was firing a handgun while walking near 47th and Bryan avenues. Several eyewitnesses, however, dispute that claim. One North Minneapolis resident, who asked to remain unidentified, told reporters that when he saw the police arrive, Blevins did not have a gun on him.
With conflicting reports and several more rallies scheduled to take place throughout the week, tensions remain high in the city. This unrest is the reason Anton Vincent and his family of five attended church Sunday morning.
“I hoped to get reassurance that someone is in control of what feels like madness,” said Vincent, who has been a member of Fellowship Church for 14 years. “Every police shooting has its own circumstances, but there is something wrong when a small percentage of society represents a disproportionate level of police violence,” he said. “The church can provide healing for the community as it gathers facts and seeks understanding.“
Fellowship’s interim senior pastor Rev. Albert Gallmon, Jr. said most of the people who attended Sunday morning services were searching for calm amidst the chaos.
“Too much of this has happened throughout our communities and we all are suspicious of the police, anyway,” said Rev. Gallmon. “But, I let my followers know that no matter what happens, God is in control and [to] pray and seek solutions.”
Fellowship’s associate minister Marsha Pitts-Phillips added that the church has often been a catalyst for healing and action.
“The church and faith community has historically been an integral part of the process of bringing about change and remains so today,” said Pitts-Phillips. “As one reflects on the protests held over the past two years of increased police shootings here and across the nation, the leaders of various faiths have been on the ground – linking arms, praying and at the table for key conversations.”
Rev. Gallmon says his prayer for the city is that everyone keeps a level head. “I don’t want our people to jump to conclusions until we get the facts,” he said. “And, I can’t stress this enough: I want everyone to give this chief of police the benefit of the doubt. Right now, we have no reason not to trust him to do the right thing.”
“God gave us an African American chief of police,” said Rev. Gallmon referring to Medaria Arradondo, the city’s first Black police chief. “And, so I believe, we need to trust our chief right now until he proves otherwise.”
Along with trust, Pitts-Phillips said prayers go out to the city leaders who have a long road ahead of them following this deadly shooting.
“My prayers are for discernment and wisdom for the mayor, the police chief – even as they are in the moment of responding [and] for the community members who want to feel safe and protected when they step out of their doors,” she said. “There is major work to be done, many hurdles to get over and hard realities.”
Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church is located at 3355 North 4th Street in Minneapolis. For more information, visit fellowshipmb.org or call 612.588.4709.