Dr. Fred Iglesia, my constant and caring friend, passed away on Sunday, August 8, 2021. His family, faith community, former co-workers, and students will, in the coming days, weeks, and months, memorialize him, and we will collectively share in the ebbs and flows of bereavement.
I wanted to share my experience and friendship with Fred. I met him at St. Peter’s AME Church in Minneapolis where he was a guest speaker and delivered a clear and concise message of reconciliation to God.
After the service, I shared with him that I just moved from Calgary, Alberta, for a career opportunity and he immediately grafted me to his Christ-centered life through ‘intentional engagement.’ Fred and I connected on many levels: We both had an off-beat sense of humor, were of Caribbean ancestry, Trekkers (not Trekkie’s), and music aficionados (he was always surprised someone of my age was versed with the back catalog of José Feliciano, Paul Simon, and Neil Diamond).
Fred was there at the high, mid, and low points of my life, from officiating at my wedding and navigating fatherhood, to supporting his once upbeat friend when I fell into a depression when I lost my father to cancer.
Fred operated on a heart and soul level, which, for anyone who has spent an extended time in Minnesota as a transplant from Illinois and warm Puerto Rican cultural heritage, meant an emotional jolt every time an open-hearted gesture towards someone is not welcomed or reciprocated. Fred navigated Minnesota, I believe, as a forever outsider with “a heart of sunshine in the cold.”
The soul-to-soul tapestry that he carefully interwove with various denominations and outreach programs throughout the Twin Cities over the years, found my dear friend in high demand for his subject matter expertise during these last 16 months, even within the constraints of limited time and lack of ancillary support. Outside of the church, it was his work in the “streets” that fascinated me. Fred appealed to the discouraged, dejected, disheartened and even those too disappointed to be disappointed.
I recall one Friday morning over a coffee at a café, Fred saw a young East African man who was pale and inebriated. He was compelled to leave our conversation and buy the young man breakfast and provide him with on-the-spot counseling relating to his fraught relationship with his spouse.
Rev. Dr. Fred Iglesia was a man of prophetic action. He was one of the few people that would hear the call or plight of others and go above and beyond to support.
Fred, in my observation, was perfectly designed for the time and his untimely death has left me unsettled, not just for his wife, grandson, and daughters, but also for the leadership void it created in a community in need of reconciliation and spiritual upliftment.
His role as a spiritual leader to realign, reframe, add clarity, uncover subtexts to see in-between, above and below, in a sin-sick world, was unparalleled. He will be forever missed.
Hanif Barnwell is a resident of Minneapolis.