Other Tributes to Walter Mondale at His Memorial Service   

Other tributes to Walter Mondale at his May 1st Memorial Service were provided by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, Minnesota civil rights leader Josie Johnson, and University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel and Professor Larry Jacobs. [1]

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz: “Walter Mondale changed every person he came in contact with. He changed this state, he changed this nation and he changed this world, all for the better.”

“Fritz was a national figure, but at heart — and everyone in this room knows — he was always just a boy from southern Minnesota. He embodied a sense of joy. He lived his life every single day with that joy at the forefront.”

“At 91, he was still fishing for walleye. Unlike me, he was catching them.”

“Everyone who met Fritz Mondale considered him a friend. Few people I’ve ever met did you feel were more present when you were with them. There was no place he needed to be. There was no-one more important than that moment. And every person I’ve ever talked to felt that.”

Former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson: “Today, we celebrate the life of Minnesota’s finest; Walter Mondale. No doubt there will be remembrances of his leadership on a host of issues ranging from human rights to world peace. But the highest tribute is to honor his values and give them immortality.”

 “First and foremost has been his commitment to fairness. He saw it in the light of endlessly pursuing the elimination of all barriers to achievement for all people. His vision for our democracy was an even playing field and, I suspect, he would define the American Dream in that same context.”

“That enveloping philosophy led him to pursue policies that enhanced the quality of life for all people ranging from universal access to quality and affordable health care to ending violence whether by war or the endless slaughter of innocent victims of gun violence.”

“And he understood the necessity of serving as stewards of the land we inherited. His work to save the BWCA and the St. Croix {River] will always remain memorable. But, he also stayed current and challenged us to be ever vigilant of the monied interests who desire to convert nature’s bounty to private gain. It was this that led him to publicly oppose sulfide mining which threatens our valuable waters.”

“Always involved, always supportive of full public debate, and always decent. But, his sense of decency was never be seen as a sign of weakness, No, Walter Mondale was never guided by the odds or the polls, but rather the rightness of the cause.”

“So today, we pay tribute to a true leader and protector of the public good. And, hopefully, we will all make his values our values. We could do no better.”

Josie Johnson, First Lady of Minnesota Civil Rights: “I never will forget how excited I was at the thought of Fritz Mondale running for president. I never will forget how honored I felt.”

“This humble man, who always welcomed other points of view and encouraged everyone in his sphere to be open, to be inclusive, to be just, and the thought of him running for president of the United States of America, was just such a wonderful, unbelievable thought that many of us had, because he was such a humble person.”

 “And for him to understand that who he was and what he represented was what we needed in our society made us all want to be engaged in everything we could be engaged in and get that message out to the public and to the community.”

Joan Gabel, University of Minnesota President: “On behalf of a grateful university, we recognize with appreciation the countless and inspiring ways Vice President Mondale gave back to his alma mater and made us all better — as a teacher and leader, as a namesake and benefactor to our law school and Humphrey School fellowship program and as a friend and mentor to students and colleagues alike.”

 “The University of Minnesota is fortunate to have held such a special place in his universe — and across his exemplary life of dedication and service to Minnesota and the world, as vice president, U.S. senator, presidential candidate, U.S. ambassador to Japan and Minnesota’s attorney general.”

“It is therefore left to us to step into his indelible footprints — here at his alma mater, in the hearts of our university family and throughout the world.”

“So, let the path he forged guide us in his ever-optimistic way, and let it heal us, so we can ensure, in his honor, that our best days still lie ahead.”

Larry Jacobs (the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota): “For 16 years, Walter Mondale and I worked together on a number of projects. But Walter Mondale brought his greatest passion to teaching. We taught thousands of students here at the University of Minnesota: undergraduates, graduates, folks who were auditing and wanted to take the class. He was a breath of fresh air; he was rigorous and he was demanding.”

“Preparation and seriousness are Mondale traits, particularly Professor Mondale. During one group presentation, Mr. Mondale pointed to a student who was leaning against the chalkboard, put up his hands to stop the group presentation and said, ‘Stand up. Convince us that you actually believe what you’re saying.’”

The student stood up, and all of us thought, ‘Oh my God. Always stand up straight.’”

“I was not immune from the scrutiny. During one class, when I was carefully, I thought, relating the readings for the class and the topic at hand, Mr. Mondale raised his hand. He asked a question that probably more of my colleagues should be asked now and again, though we’d prefer it not be asked by a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Mondale asked, ‘What are you talking about?’”

Conclusion

Here are the previous blog posts about the Mondale Memorial Service:

==============================

[1]  Excerpts from speeches and letters read at Walter Mondale’s memorial, StarTribune (May 1, 2022).

 

U.S. 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom

On June 2, 2022, the U.S. State Department released its 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom. It “describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The report covers government policies violating religious  denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The U.S. Department of State submits the reports in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.”[1]

The Report includes these sources on the subject: (a) Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (b) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; (c) Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief; (d) Religious Freedom Provisions, Commitments, and Obligations from Regional Bodies and Instruments; (e) Department of State Training Related to the International Religious Freedom Act-2021; (f) Department of Homeland Security and the International Religious Freedom Act; and (g) Overview of U.S. Refugee Policy—2021.

There is no overall summary of this freedom in 2021 throughout the world. Instead, as the above summary indicates, the report has separate reports for “every country” in the world. After a summary of its report on Cuba, which is chosen because a Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian, has had partnerships with the island’s Presbyterian-Reformed Church since 2002, there will be general comments from that Cuban church and Westminster.

State Department Report on Cuba

Cuban Religious Demography

According to the Report, “The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11 million (midyear 2021).  There is no independent, authoritative source on the overall size or composition of religious groups.  The Catholic Church estimates 60 percent of the population identifies as Catholic.  Membership in Protestant churches is estimated at 5 percent.  According to some observers, Pentecostals and Baptists are likely the largest Protestant denominations.  The Assemblies of God reports approximately 150,000 members; the four Baptist conventions estimate their combined membership at more than 100,000.”

“Jehovah’s Witnesses estimate their members at 95,000; Methodists 50,000; Seventh-day Adventists 36,000; Presbyterians 25,000; Anglicans 22,500; Episcopalians 10,000; Anabaptists 4,387 (mostly Iglesia de Los Hermanos en Cristo, the Brethren of Christ); Quakers 1,000; Moravians 750; and the Church of Jesus Christ 357 members.  There are approximately 4,000 followers of 50 Apostolic churches (an unregistered, loosely affiliated network of Protestant churches, also known as the Apostolic Movement) and a separate New Apostolic Church associated with the New Apostolic Church International.  According to some Christian leaders, evangelical Protestant groups continue to grow in the country.  The Jewish community estimates it has 1,200 members, of whom 1,000 reside in Havana.  According to a representative of the Islamic League, there are approximately 4,000 Muslims in the country, of whom fewer than half are native-born.  The representative also said that the majority of the Muslim population is Sunni.  Immigrants and native-born citizens practice several different Buddhist traditions, with estimates of 6,200 followers.  The largest group of Buddhists is the Japanese Soka Gakkai; its estimated membership is 1,000.  Other religious groups with small numbers of adherents include Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Baha’is.”

“Many individuals, particularly Afro-Cubans, practice religions with roots across Africa, including Yoruba groups often referred to by outsiders as Santeria, but by adherents as the order of Lucumi or Orisha worship.  Bantu-influenced groups refer to themselves as Palo Monte.  These religious practices are commonly intermingled with Catholicism and other forms of Christianity, and some require Catholic baptism for full initiation, making it difficult to estimate accurately their total membership.  Rastafarian adherents also have a presence on the island, although the size of the community is unknown.”

Religious Freedom in Cuba

According to the Report’s Executive Summary, “The country’s constitution contains written provisions for religious freedom and prohibitions against discrimination based on religious grounds.  According to the religious freedom advocacy organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), through its Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), continued to control most aspects of religious life.  In its annual Watch List, Open Doors reported a continued rise in persecution of Christians in the country.  According to media, on July 11, security forces (a general term covering military, police, and vigilante forces) committed acts of violence against, detained, and harassed religious leaders from multiple faith communities who were participating in peaceful demonstrations across the country.  According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), security forces beat Roman Catholic priest Jose Castor Alvarez Devesa when he offered aid to an injured person at a protest in Camaguey on July 11.  CSW reported Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo faced up to a 10-year sentence for participating in a march the same day.  Rosales Fajardo was found guilty of charges in December and awaited sentencing at year’s end.  Sissi Abascal Zamora, a member of the Ladies in White opposition group, received a six-year sentence for participating in the July protests.  Authorities continued to subject members of the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba (Free Yorubas) to arbitrary detentions, threats, physical violence, and verbal harassment.  The U.S.-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) Global Liberty Alliance reported four members of Free Yorubas faced extended pretrial detention after their arrests following the July protests and prison sentences of up to 10 years.  The Spanish NGO Cuban Observatory of Human Rights registered at least 30 acts against leaders and laypersons from multiple faith communities as the government attempted to suppress public support for peaceful protests called for November 15.  According to NGO and media reports, those actions included the orchestration of demonstrations (acts of repudiation) in front of the homes of Catholic priests, police surveillance, internet cuts, and the harassment of a nun as she left her residence in Havana to meet a friend.  In August, security service officials arrested Apostolic Church pastor Alain Toledano Valiente for ‘propagating the COVID pandemic’ when he held what he said was a socially distanced service.  Religious groups reported the ORA and MOJ continued to deny official registration to certain groups, including to several Apostolic churches, or did not respond to long-pending applications, such as those for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ).”

“Some religious groups and organizations, such as the Catholic charity Caritas, continued to gather and distribute relief items, providing humanitarian assistance to individuals regardless of religious belief.  The Catholic-affiliated Community of Sant’Egidio continued to hold prayer and small group meetings in spite of COVID-19 restrictions.”

“Due to a lack of government responsiveness, U.S. embassy officials did not meet with or otherwise engage the ORA during the year.  In public statements and on social media, U.S. government officials, including the Secretary of State, continued to call upon the government to respect the fundamental freedoms of its citizens, including the freedom of religion.  Embassy officials met regularly with a range of religious groups concerning the state of religious freedom and political activities related to religious groups’ beliefs.”

“On November 15, 2021, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, the Secretary of State again placed Cuba on the Special Watch List for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.”

Recent Devotion from Cuban Presbyterian-Reformed Church[3]

The Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba prepares daily devotions in Spanish (with English translations) that are available on the Internet. Here, for example, is their devotion for June 26, 2022, the 132nd Anniversary of the church: “Following Jesus (Luke 9:51-62).”

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”

“A new section of the Gospel of Luke begins with these verses, Jesus’ resolve to travel to Jerusalem.   The three candidates for discipleship illustrate the demands that are implied by following Jesus; they teach that emotional enthusiasm is not sufficient and neither are we capable of abandoning all to follow him.”

“Loyalty to Christ takes precedence over any other loyalties.   In one of the cases the man tried to excuse himself by saying that he had to care for his dead father.   The spiritually dead should bury their dead, but the followers of Jesus should fulfill the urgent work of proclaiming the good news.   This is not an argument in favor of insensitivity but is a lesson against delay in fulfilling an order.”

“Jesus focuses his attention on one truth: to serve his cause demands complete dedication. To not be suitable for the Reign of God means a discipleship through which God is unable to use us in the best way.”

“What does Jesus want of us?   Complete dedication, not half delivery.   We don’t have the right to follow him at our convenience; we should accept the cross together with the crown, judgment together with mercy.   One must take into account the cost and to be ready to abandon everything.   We should not allow anything to distract us from the path of living what he calls good and true.”

“Prayer: Lord, allow us to be alert to your call and not continually excuse ourselves.   In the name of Jesus, Amen”

Report from Westminster Presbyterian Church[4]

“For more than 20 years, Westminster has had a partnership with people and institutions in Cuba, making it our longest global partnership. Well over 100 Westminster members and staff have visited Cuba to experience the culture, welcome, and resilience of the Cuban people. The situation in Cuba remains dire due to food shortages, economic despair, and political unrest. Yet, as of January 1, our partner church, El Redentor/Versalles (Versalles) in Matanzas has welcomed a new pastor, the Rev. Anays Noda, and her family. They bring a renewed energy and new members into the church.”

“After building renovation and much hard work, our siblings at Versalles are eagerly readying for visitors from Westminster. A group of five Westminster members plan to travel in July to revisit the seven clean water installations Westminster currently sponsors [on the island] and to assess a potential new site, anticipating installation later this year. A highlight of the trip will be a chance to worship in person again at Versalles. A congregational trip is also being planned for early 2023 offering a unique experience to witness God’s love this whole world over.”

Conclusion[5]

Any discussion of Cuban religious freedom should expressly recognize its enormous economic problems associated with the worldwide COVID pandemic and the resulting severe negative economic impact on Cuba’s market for international tourism and hence Cuban opportunities for employment and entrepreneurial activities. These and other developments, including the continued U.S. embargo of the island, have caused increased numbers of Cuban seeking to flee the island and protests on the island over desperate conditions.

==============================

[1] State Dep’t, 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom (June 2, 2022).

[2] Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Connections with Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 13, 2015}. See generally “Cuban Human Rights” section (with discussions of earlier U.S. reports on Cuban religious freedom) of  List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA [as of 5/4/20].

[3]   Daily Devotions of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Cuba (June 26, 2022).

[4]  Our Global Partners in Cuba, Westminster News (July 2022). This blogger treasures his having been on three Westminster mission trips to Cuba and the friendships he has developed with Cubans. (Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Connections with Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 13, 2015); Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church Celebrates U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 4, 2015). See generally List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA [as of 5/4/20].

[5] See, e.g., Frank, Cuba sees slow economic recovery at 4% in 2022—Official, Reuters (Dec. 12, 2021); Cubans arriving in record numbers along Mexico border, Wash. Post (April 7, 2022); Cuba economic crisis and political crackdown pushes many to immigrate, Al Jazeera YouTube (May 2022); Cuban Migrants Arrive to U.S. in Record Numbers, on Foot, Not by Boat, N.Y. Times (May 3, 2022); With the world distracted, Cuba cracks down on dissident artists, Wash. Post (June 27, 2022)..

 

 

Prayer and Meditation for Walter Mondale by Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen

At the May 1, 2022 memorial service for Walter Mondale, Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, the Senior Pastor at Mondale’s Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian, delivered the following prayer and Meditation.

Prayer

“Let us pray:”

 “Gracious God, we gather in this Easter season to give you thanks and   praise for the life and witness of Walter F. Mondale. In remembering him and his legacy of public service, help us recall the source of the values that guided him. You summon us to seek justice, to uphold the full humanity of all, to ensure equal access – and to do so with kindness and humility. Your servant Fritz embraced those gospel ideals.”

“As we face the mystery of death help us, we pray, to see the light of eternity, the light that now shines on Fritz, Joan, and Eleanor. With the power of a love that knows no bounds, hold them close, and comfort and encourage all who continue to struggle for the world you desire for the human community.”

 “ In your name we pray. Amen.”

 Meditation

“Fritz Mondale was born into a home steeped in biblical wisdom and solid, southern Minnesota common sense. Theodore, his Methodist-pastor father, would have trained for the ministry in the time when the social gospel was ascendant. The values of doing good and making the world a better place for all were taught in the Mondale household and in Sunday School by Fritz’s mother, Claribel, who also played the piano at church.”

“’I believe I attended more church services,’ Fritz once said, ‘Sang in more weddings and funerals, attended more Sunday Schools, than any public official in the history of southern Minnesota.’”

“His family drew from the well of Methodist teaching that linked passion, discipline, intellect, and concern for ‘the least of these.’ It was a potent combination of a heart aflame with rigorous commitment to serve the most vulnerable in society. That theological context formed young Fritz, and it would define his character all his life.”

“’My faith and my family have been my greatest blessings in my life,’ he said in a speech not long ago.  ‘I was taught that ours was a faith of decency and social justice, based on the great commandment to love your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Like many of us in the Protestant world, Fritz did not wear religion on his sleeve. In fact, he was suspicious of anyone who did. His was a Beatitudes-based faith, drawing on the simple teaching of Jesus: ‘Blessed are those who are meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who are poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called children of God.’”

“Fritz found the holy in what Wendell Berry calls ‘the peace of wild things,’ whether at their cabin in the St. Croix Valley or fishing up north. His work in protecting rivers was driven by home-grown Minnesota commitment to stewardship of the earth. ‘Wilderness is a spiritual necessity,’ Sigurd Olson said in words that Fritz lived, ‘A means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.’ An usher at church this morning told me how grateful he and his fishing buddies are for what Fritz did to protect the rivers of this land. He said he never got a chance to thank him in person. So, on his and his buddies’ behalf, Thank you, Fritz.”  (Olson, The Spiritual Aspects of Wilderness (1961))

“Every time Fritz referred to his upbringing – which he did regularly – it was his way of remembering what had shaped his life and formed the person he became.”

“The Mondales were faithful members of the church I serve, Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis. Joan’s father was a Presbyterian chaplain at Macalester College, which Fritz attended before the U of M. He met Joan on a blind date at Macalester. It was the start of their beautiful life together.”

“The nation saw and admired Fritz’ public service; I did, too, and as his pastor I also saw the husband and father who deeply loved his family. The loss of Eleanor tore open his heart, and Joan’s death took part of his life, as well. Millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of whom are women. As Joan declined, Fritz tenderly cared for her right to the end, rarely leaving her side.”

“Toward the end of his life, he said he looked forward to being with them both again. Fritz trusted in the power of God’s love in this life and the next. He was not concerned about the state of his soul.”

“Shortly after his 90th birthday party, held here at the University, I had lunch with him. As I sometimes do with older parishioners, I asked if he ever thought about the end of life. He glanced around the noisy place, leaned forward, and said quietly, ‘In the strict confidentiality of this room, I will tell you that I will be the first person to live forever. I’ve made the arrangements.’”

“I thanked him for letting me in on the secret.”

“’Actually,’ he said, ‘I understand it happens to everyone at some point. Do you think Carter will come?’”

“President Carter has sent words we will hear later, but he was able to be here for Joan’s memorial service in Westminster’s sanctuary and gave a moving tribute to her and to the life partnership she had with Fritz.”

“Walter Mondale may not have been concerned about the state of his soul, but he was concerned about the state of his nation, especially in recent years.”

“The rise of the religious Right as a powerful force in American politics was a source of considerable consternation to him. ‘Tell me what’s going on with these fundamentalist preachers,’ he would say to me – as if I knew.”

“Fritz understood neither the Christianity they espoused nor the politics they practiced. Both were utterly foreign to his way of living out a quiet faith through public policy aimed squarely at justice for those on the receiving end of the cruelties of history. His Christianity was kind and humble. It confounded him when fellow believers were neither.”

“Once when we were at a meal in a restaurant word got out in the kitchen that the vice-president was eating there.  The kitchen door opened and one-by-one the dishwashers and bussers, all of them immigrants, came out to shake his hand and thank him for his service to the nation. Fritz treated each one with respect and dignity.”

“On his office desk, Fritz had taped some lines from Psalm 15. The Hebrew poet provided the scriptural framing of the politics he practiced. As I read these words, contrast them with much of what passes for political leadership today (present company excepted):

Lord, who can be trusted with power, and who may act in your place? Those with a passion for justice, who speak the truth from their hearts; who have let go of selfish interests and grown beyond their own lives; who see the wretched as their family and the poor as their flesh and blood. They alone are impartial and worthy of the people’s trust. Their compassion lights up the whole earth, and their kindness endures forever.”

“Theodore and Claribel’s son, born 94 years ago, grew up and entered political life and served his beloved Minnesota and our nation for decades, never wandering far from his roots.”

Thanks be to God for the life of Fritz Mondale.

“Thanks be to God for love that cannot be taken from us.

 “Thanks be to God.

  “Amen.”

Background on Westminster Presbyterian Church[1]

Westminster was founded in Minneapolis in 1857 by eight people of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh heritage and moved to its current location at 12th Street and Nicollet Avenue in 1883 and its current Sanctuary at that location in 1897. Its latest expansion was in 2018, when a modern two-story  40,000 square-foot wing was added with church bells crafted in France. (Here are photographs of the church.)

With over 3,000 members today, Westminster is “an engaged, urban partner sharing good news with a world in need of God’s peace, love, and justice [as a] vibrant, open-minded congregation.” It “is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds deepen their faith and make a difference in the world.” It “offers ministries in adult, children, and youth education; music and the arts; and social justice, with a highly engaged congregation that welcomes and cares deeply for all people within and beyond its walls.”

Westminster is “an open and affirming congregation” that “because of our commitment to the love and justice of Jesus Christ, . . .fully welcomes persons of all sexual orientations and gender expressions and identities.” It “was involved in the movement to change the Presbyterian Church’s ordination standards to allow any church member to freely serve and be elected as a minster, elder, or deacon. Our church was a leader in the movement for marriage equality in the State of Minnesota and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Prior to the legalization of marriage equality, Westminster’s pastors celebrated the love and commitment of same-sex couples, and continue now to happily officiate at weddings recognized by the State of Minnesota.”

Westminster has “heightened awareness of the systemic and critical issues affecting our community, brought to greater attention in recent years, most especially in response to the murder of George Floyd. Through [adult education] we will learn about long-standing needs, and become more prepared to support all members of our community. In arriving at this theme, we are guided by the beliefs we share with congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA), “God sends the Church to work for justice in the world: exercising its power for the common good…seeking dignity and freedom for all people” (Book of Order, W-5.0304). And with this theme we are reconnecting with Westminster’s hope for a just (Micah 6:8), loving (I Corinthians 16:14), joyful (Galatians 5:22), sustainable (Psalm 8), and peaceful (John 14:27) community.”

Since 1980 the church has sponsored the Westminster Town Hall Forum, which is broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, to discuss “key issues of our day in an ethical perspective.” Speakers have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Thomas Friedman, Cornel West, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, David McCullough, Marcus Borg, Marian Wright Edelman, Barbara Brown Taylor, David Brooks, Salman Rushdie, Gwen Ifill, and Bryan Stevenson.

Westminster’s Global Partners Ministry Team nurtures the church’s long-standing relationships with faith communities in Cameroon, Cuba, and Palestine (West Bank). The team plans opportunities for Westminster members to visit sister congregations and related Christian organizations in these communities to share friendship, prayer, worship, and community service. These global partnerships have resulted not only in treasured congregational relationships, but also in deepening of our shared faith.

Most recently Westminster with the assistance of the Minnesota Council of Churches has become a co-sponsor of an Afghan family.

Rev. Hart-Andersen is a member of the Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy of Minneapolis along with religious leaders of faith traditions that include Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Humanism. One example of their work was the prompt condemnation of the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd.

Rev. Hart-Andersen has been Westminster’s Senior Pastor since 1999 and “is passionate about Westminster’s mission to be fully engaged in the life of the city and in transforming lives and systems in pursuit of the love and justice of Jesus Christ. ‘Westminster is a community thoroughly engaged in living faithfully in complex times. I am grateful that the church is willing to learn and change, to grow and take risks, all in an effort to fulfill the gospel mandate to ‘love God and neighbor.’”

=================================                                                                                                             

[1] Westminster Presbyterian Church, History; Westminster, What we believe; Westminster. Social Justice Forum; Westminster Town Hall Forum; Westminster Global Partners Ministry TeamMinneapolis Religious Leaders Condemn Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 8, 2020); Westminster, Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen. This blogger is a Westminster member and non-ruling elder who has been involved in leading our Global Partners Ministry Team and has been on  mission trips to Cuba and Cameroon and is now involved in our co-sponsorship of an Afghan family. (See these posts about religion, Cuba and Cameroon.)

 

 

 

Presidential Historian Jon Meacham’s Remarks About Walter Mondale at His Memorial Service

At the May 1st Memorial Service for former Vice President Walter Mondale, Presidential Historian Jon Meacham delivered the following remarks.[1]

“The story begins the year before he was even old enough to vote. It was a late July afternoon in 1948, and Fritz Mondale, then all of 20, had been put in charge of the Second Congressional District for Hubert Humphrey’s U.S. Senate campaign. No one knew what second prize was. The annual Martin County Farm Bureau Federation picnic at Fox Lake Park needed a speaker, and Mr. Mondale arranged for Humphrey to headline the event.”

“The political climate was charged and complicated in that American summer. There was anxiety at home, communist aggression abroad, as a Democratic president sought to govern a fractious party and a divided country. As Mark Twain once said, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Seen as too liberal by the right and too conservative by the left, Harry Truman would say he didn’t give Republicans hell; he just told them the truth and they thought it was hell.”

“In his own party President Truman faced opposition over his desegregation of the military and his push for civil rights. Only weeks before the Martin County picnic, Mayor Humphrey’s civil rights speech at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia had helped send Dixiecrats, segregationist Dixiecrats, out of the hall and back into the Old Confederacy.”

“But far from the Olympian drama of Philadelphia, in Martin County, after the 4-H club band had played, Humphrey took the stage. He was passionate and funny. He said, ‘Kick the rascals out, and vote the new rascals in.’ Afterward Humphrey thanked his young ally, telling Mr. Mondale: ‘Your work is needed. We have so much to do.’”

“Mr. Mondale was over the moon. ‘After that day,’ he recalled, ‘I think I never stopped.’”

“’I think I never stopped.’ And we live in a better, nobler, more perfect Union because Walter Frederick Mondale never stopped.”

“Now, for the politicians in the room — and there might be one or two of you who snuck through customs — an election result: In 1948, Humphrey carried Mondale’s territory, the very Republican Second District, by 8,500 votes. It was Mr. Mondale’s first victory, and it was a sweet one, second only perhaps to his seven dates-in-six-months courtship of Joan Adams.”

“The son of a Methodist minister and farmer, as a child Walter Mondale absorbed a gospel that he never stopped seeking to put into practice: That we are summoned to love our neighbors as ourselves, to lift up the most vulnerable among us — to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to strengthen the weak.”

“There’s nothing more important — nothing more American — than that: To enlist in the perennial battle to make real the founding ideal of this nation, that we are in fact created equal.”

“Now, we can, and we will, and we do disagree about the means of governance. But at our best, Americans have agreed on the end of our common project: To give everyone, in Lincoln’s phrase, ‘an open field and a fair chance.’”

“Walter Mondale devoted his life to that cause. He never stopped seeking a fuller, freer, fairer America. And his years in the arena are testament to a truth of human experience: That the polls and the passions of the moment are just that — of the moment. Headlines come and go; history endures. The tumult of politics rage; true service stands long after the furies of the moment have passed.”

“Walter Mondale understood something fundamental: That we are at our best not when we build walls, but when we build bridges; not when we point fingers, but when we lend a hand; not when we fear, but when we hope. And from age to age, history honors those who put ‘We the People’ above the will to power; the rule of law above the reign of party; and difficult truths above self-serving fictions.”

“Now, the Mondales were a stoic people. His father, Theodore, fought a stutter, struggled to farm, went to seminary, and raised a son, Fritz, who knew hardship but lived in hope.”

“It was a hope that drove him all his life. He was born a year before the stock market crash. His childhood was shaped by the Great Depression. He believed in hard work — he liked to say that he was the only pea-lice inspector to ever become Vice President of the United States. I didn’t check it, but I think he’s on safe ground. Some might have preferred it. He served in the U.S. Army, went to law school on the GI Bill, and always gave back to the country that had made his life possible.”

“Now, he was often caricatured, as you all know, as a big-government liberal. But he’s better understood as a Cold War liberal — a man devoted, at home and abroad, to freedom and to fairness.”

“Freedom and fairness: Bear those words in mind. For they are the words that shaped Walter Mondale’s consequential life — and Lord knows they are the words that must guide us still.”

“In the struggle between democracy and dictatorship in the 20th century, Fritz Mondale cast his lot with neither the utopians of the left nor the reactionaries of the right. He stood, instead, for the centrality of the individual, for the sanctity of liberty, and for the pursuit of possibility against the totalitarian impulse.”

“As attorney general of Minnesota he was instrumental in the Gideon case that gave indigent defendants the right to counsel. He brokered the deal that would end segregation forever in the Democratic Party, long the bastion of Jim Crow.”

“And then, he came to the Senate. In the mid-1960s, in the seat that Hubert Humphrey had won the year of that Farm Bureau picnic, Sen. Mondale sensed a vital intersection of forces. To him, as he put it, it was ‘as if we took the intellectual heritage of Franklin Roosevelt, the moral inspiration of John Kennedy, and a decade of pent-up demand for social change and converted them into social reality.’ As a senator he was a crucial voice for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He led the battle for fair housing in 1968, mastering the Senate in that essential hour.”

“And he never stopped. His causes included Title IX to open opportunities for women. Head Start and elementary and secondary education. Filibuster reform. Nutrition and antipoverty programs. Workers’ rights. Environmental protections. Consumer protections. Early attention to the crisis of climate change. The domestic side of the Church Committee, which revealed the FBI’s wiretapping and harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. The transformation of the vice-presidency in the Carter years. A challenge to apartheid that ignited the chain of events that led to the release of Nelson Mandela. And the nomination of a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, to run with him on a national ticket.”

“Walter Mondale was a giant of the Senate, a formidable vice president, and a truth-telling presidential nominee of his party who never stopped standing by principle.”

“To be sure, it was not always the smoothest of rides. Fritz Mondale knew the vicissitudes of politics as well as any American ever has. When he explored a run for president in 1976, he recalled that ‘after a year I was running six points behind ‘I Don’t Know’ … and I wanted to challenge him to a debate.’ Mr. Mondale would tell the story of Sam Donaldson’s asking Ronald Reagan in 1984, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ And Reagan: ‘Minnesota.’ When Mondale went to ask George McGovern when did it stop hurting to lose the presidency, Sen. McGovern said, ‘I don’t know. I’ll tell you when it happens.’”

“Walter Mondale loved his family. He loved fishing, Shakespeare, Dairy Queen, the United States Senate, Hubert Humphrey, cigars and the state of Minnesota.”

“And most of all he loved America — its complexities and its hopes, its promise and its possibilities. He thought of himself as a public servant, as a citizen with an obligation to the common good. To him, government was not the enemy, or the problem, but rather a manifestation of love of neighbor and of country.”

“On the night of his defeat in 1984 he spoke not only to the moment, as painful as it was, but to history, saying: ‘Let us continue to seek an America that is just and fair. That has been my fight … I’m confident that history will judge us honorably.’”

“And so it has.”

“One of Mr. Mondale’s favorite verses of scripture tells us much. ‘I have fought the good fight,’ St. Paul said; ‘I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’” [2 Timothy 4:7]

The first part of that chapter of Second Timothy is quoted less often, but is worth remembering. ‘Preach the word,’ the apostle wrote; ‘be prepared in season and out of season.’” [2 Timothy 4: 1-2]

“In season and out of season — justice knows no season. Truth knows no season. Freedom knows no season. Fairness knows no season. Walter Mondale knew that. He lived by that. And today we salute him for that.”

“There are children in America today who will not go hungry because of Fritz Mondale. There are Black people in America today who can vote, and work, and live more freely and fairly because of Fritz Mondale. There are women in America today who see no limit to their dreams because of Fritz Mondale. There are safer cars in America, there are rivers of clean water in America, there are enclaves of untouched wildlife in America today because of Fritz Mondale.”

“He never stopped believing in this country. He never stopped fighting for its people. And thankfully, he never stopped defending democracy.”

“He never stopped. And nor, in his memory, must we.”

===============================

[1] Read presidential historian Jon Mecham’s remarks at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022). Professor Meacham is the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in American Presidency at Vanderbilt University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Biden’s Eulogy of Walter Mondale

On May 1, 2022, President Joe Biden traveled to Minneapolis to deliver his eulogy of Walter Mondale at the latter’s memorial service. Here are the highlights of the President’s remarks. [1]

“I’m moved to be with you here today  . . .[to] honor one of the great giants in American history.  And that’s not hyperbole.  Fritz was a giant in American political history.”

“I speak of a friend of five decades, about . . . the light of [our] friendship and what it meant to me personally, to my family.”

“Fritz and I first met in one of the darkest moments of my life. [After I had been elected for the first time to the U.S. Senate in 1972 and before I was sworn in,] I was at the U.S. Senate on December 18th to hire staff when I received a phone call from my fire department in Delaware [and was told,] ‘You got to come home.  There’s been an accident. . . .Your wife and daughter are dead, and your two boys may not make it.’  Fritz and Joan . . . embraced me and came to the hospital to see my boys.  They [and others] helped me find my purpose in a sea of darkness and pain. [They urged me to stay in the Senate for at least six months and then decide whether to stay in the Senate or not.]”

“My life changed again five years later.  No man deserves one great love in his life, let alone two, but I met and married Jill Biden.  I had to ask her five times. But being a spouse of a Senator who was relatively well known, because of the celebrity of how I got there and the accident, and inheriting two beautiful young boys wasn’t easy.”

“Once again, Fritz and Joan were there spreading the light.  Joan was one of the first people to reach out to Jill, and it meant the world to us.”

“Fritz was a master legislator who shone a light on those who needed it most.  The desire to lift up others stemmed from his youth, from his service as a corporal in the U.S. Army, and those early days organizing for Hubert Humphrey in parts of Minnesota that Democrats didn’t win.”

“Fritz learned early the power of bringing people together.  And I know for Fritz, no moment was brighter than when he joined forces with an African American senator from Massachusetts, Senator Edward Brooke, and they passed the Fair Housing Act. When the Act passed, Fritz spoke on the Senate floor [and said,] ‘The words ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ will mean more to millions of our fellow Americans [today with this legislation]. That was Fritz spreading . . . the light of our country, to families who had never truly known its warmth.”

“At every stage of our lives, at every inflection point, Fritz and Joan . . . were there for Jill and me and my family —on a personal level.”

“In 2008 Barack Obama called me after it was clear he was the de facto nominee and said he’d liked me to join him on the ticket, at least consider it; could he do a background check on me.  And I said, ‘No thanks, Barack.’ [But he said,] ‘there’s only one other person I’m considering.’  I said, ‘Barack, I don’t want to be Vice President.’  He said, ‘Why?’  I said, ‘Because [the VP is] basically just standby equipment. I can help you a lot more as a senator.  I’ll do everything I can.  I’ll campaign throughout the country for you.’”

Barack responded, ‘Look, would you go home and talk it over with your family?  Just talk it over.’”

“So I did.  I called Jill from the train on my cell phone. And when I got home, .. . the first person I called was Fritz before the family gathered in the back porch.  And I asked, ‘Fritz, what should I do?’  And he went into great detail. As a matter of fact, he sent me a long memorandum he prepared for President Carter when they were deciding how their relationship would work. He told me, in essence, that the vice presidency holds no inherent power.  None.  Zero.  The Vice President is merely — and it’s true — a reflection of your relationship with the President of the United States.”

“About seven years ago, I joined Fritz at a forum in his honor at George Washington University.  Fritz recounted that his greatest strength wasn’t his expertise in a particular policy area; it was the genuine personal relationship he built with President Jimmy Carter — a relationship built on real affection and trust.They sat down for lunch together every week.  Fritz said to me, ‘Make sure you get a commitment from Barack: Once a week, you have lunch to discuss whatever is on either of your minds.’”

“He was the first Vice President to have an office in the West Wing, just a few steps away from the Oval Office.”

“That was the true strength of the vice presidency, he said, a strength that Barack and I replicated in our time in office and what Kamala and I are doing today.  And she sends her regards to the whole family.  She called me before I got in the plane.”

“It was Fritz who lit the way.  [At] his core, Fritz embraced everybody with a belief that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity — everybody.  Dignity.  Not just the right to vote, dignity.”

“He was loved by the American people because he reflected the goodness of the American people, especially the people of Minnesota. You know, every senator wears on his or her sleeve the state they serve.  But the love Fritz had for the people of Minnesota ran deeper than that.  He loved you all, and you loved him back — it was obvious — because Fritz reflected the very best qualities of this state: the warmth and optimism that you reflect.”

“At every turn, Fritz reflected the light of this nation, who we are and what we can be.  He called me [after] I had said [at my] inauguration that we’re the most unique nation in all of history.  We’re the only nation founded on an idea.  Every other nation in the world is based on geography, ethnicity, religion, race.  We’re founded on an idea.  ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.’  And it goes on.”

“Fritz believed that in his gut.  I watched him every day for over 35 years in the Senate and when he was Vice President.  He united people, sharing the same light, the same hopes.  Even when we disagree, he thought that was important.”

“I’ll never forget, on a personal level, what it meant to have a friend like Fritz.  Less than four years after losing Eleanor to brain cancer and just a year after losing Joan, Fritz was there to help me again when Jill and I lost our son Beau to brain cancer after a year in Iraq.”

“I’ll never forget how Fritz reflected so much love and light into our family — again, at our darkest moments — nor will I forget coming here to Minneapolis eight years ago to say goodbye to Joan.”

“Most of you remember that Fritz went to the Mayo Clinic for quadruple bypass the very next day.  He had delayed the surgery so he could be with all of us to reflect her light.  And he put off treating his own heart because, as all you know, his heart belonged to Joan.”

“As I’ve said many times — I say to the family, seeing your mom and dad together reminded me of that great line from Christopher Marlowe’s poem: ‘Come live with me and be my love, and we shall all the pleasures prove.’ You can tell when a couple has been together a long time.  So each looks at the other with love — deep love.”

“It’s been said that memory is the power to gather roses in winter.  Well, Ted and William, your dad blessed you with an endless garden of those memories and, most of all, the memory of two extraordinary loves: a love of more than 58 years he spent together with your mom, and a love of 51 years with your sister, Eleanor. In his farewell letter, Fritz wrote that he was eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor, two unbreakable loves.”

“Jill Biden wanted to do a garden at the Vice President’s Residence so that every family that ever had lived there would have stones [engraved with the names of] the couple and their children. When I called Fritz to tell him about it, he came over to the [White House]. He asked if he could go inside.  I said, ‘Of course.’  He wanted to walk up to the third floor. [There he] stopped in front of a door and opened it and just stared.  After  a few minutes, he came down and said, ‘That was Eleanor’s room.  I so miss her.’”

“Well, they’re all together now, for all time.”

“Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.’ There is no doubt that the institution of the Senate and the institution of the Vice President reflect the profound legacy of Fritz Mondale. But it’s not a lengthened shadow; it’s his light.  And it’s up to each of us now to reflect that light that Fritz was all about, to reflect Fritz’s goodness and grace, the way he made people feel no matter who you were.”

“Just imagine what our nation could achieve if we followed Fritz’s example of honor, decency, integrity, literally just the service to the common good.  There would be nothing — nothing, nothing, nothing beyond our reach.”

“I hope we all can be Fritz’s mirror, continue to spread his light.  Because you know he was one of the finest men you’ve ever known, one of the most decent people I ever dealt with, and one of the toughest, smartest men I’ve ever worked with.”

“You were lucky to have had him.  Look at things, he was lucky to have had you.”

“God bless you, my dear friend.  Among the greatest of all Americans.”

“The highest compliment, my Grandfather Finnegan used to say, you can give a man or a woman — he was a good man.”

“Fritz Mondale was a good man.”

=============================

[1] Remarks by President Biden at the Memorial Service of Vice President Walter Mondale, White House (May 2, 2022); Memorial Service for Walter Mondale, dwkcommentaries.com (May 4, 2020).

 

Beautiful Performance of “Hallelujah” 

Early this morning, I woke up early and turned on my iPad to go to cnn.com and see if there was any important breaking news. I did not find any such item. But I noticed an entry entitled “Watch H.E.R. perform ‘Hallelujah.’” Although I had no idea of who H.E.R. was, I did open this link  because I have listened to this song many times and always have  found it very moving.

I am glad I did because it was an astonishingly beautiful performance. A little Internet research told me that “H.E.R.“ (“Having Everything Revealed”) since 2016 is the stage name for the 24-year-old Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, who was born in Vallejo, California to a Filipina mother and African-American father. She has produced many records of contemporary R&B music and has received many awards, including NAACP Image, BET and Net Honors this year so far. [1]

This performance appeared on a September 11 CNN television special, “Shine a Light,” hosted by Jake Tapper that paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who were killed in the 9/11 attacks and featured discussions with young adults who were affected by that attack and its aftermath and other musical performances by Brad Paisley, Common, and Maroon 5 as well as appearances by Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Eli Manning. [2]

When I listened to H.E.R. sing “Hallelujah” I remembered that it was composed by Leonard Cohen, a Canadian composer and musician and research prompted by H.E.R.’s performance has revealed that Cohen was born on September 21, 1934 and died on November 7, 2016 and was also a poet and novelist. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canadian Songwriters Hall of  Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and invested as a  Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Cohen’s Lithuanian-born mother was the daughter of a Talmudic writer and his paternal grandfather was the founding president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. His family observed Orthodox Judaism and he was described as a Sabbath-observant Jew. He also said, “I’m very fond of Jesus Christ. He may be the most beautiful guy who walked the face of this earth. Any guy who says ‘Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek’ has got to be a figure of unparalleled generosity and insight and madness … A man who declared himself to stand among the thieves, the prostitutes and the homeless. His position cannot be comprehended. It is an inhuman generosity. A generosity that would overthrow the world if it was embraced because nothing would weather that compassion. I’m not trying to alter the Jewish view of Jesus Christ. But to me, in spite of what I know about the history of legal Christianity, the figure of the man has touched me.” In addition, later in life Leonard was ordained a Zen Buddhist monk[3]

I, therefore, see this song by Cohen as a religious song expressing gratitude and adoration to God with resonance in  both Jewish and Christian and perhaps other religions.[4]

===========================

[1] H.E.R., Wikipedia; H.E. R. Discography, Wikipedia; H.E.R.—official website.

[2] CNN will air 9/11 special “Shine A Light” tonight, cnn.com (Sept. 11, 2021).

[3] Leonard Cohen, Wikipedia; Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah, leonardcohen.com.

[4] Hallelujah, Wikipedia; Wood, What did Leonard Cohen really mean when he sang ‘Hallelujah’?, L.A. Times (Nov. 11, 2016); Kemp, “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” Review: Wide-Reaching Doc Struggles to Chronicle an Icon, IndieWire (Sept. 2, 2021.

U.S. Resettlement of Refugees and Recent Afghan Evacuees

The U.S. currently is engaged in resettling in this country refugees from around the world under previously established international refugee resettlement processes as well as recent Afghan evacuees under newly modified processes for Afghans.

Here is a summary of the legal requirements and administrative procedures for these important developments.

U.S. Resettlement of Refugees

  1. International Legal Protection of Refuges[1]

In 1951 an international conference of diplomats adopted an international treaty to protect refugees (Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees).

This treaty went into effect or force in April 1954 after its ratification by six states. However, the U.S. did not directly ratify this treaty, but did so indirectly in 1968 when under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson the U.S. ratified a treaty amendment (Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees).

The U.S., however, did not adopt implementing legislation until 1980, when President Jimmy Carter led the adoption of the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980, which included the treaty’s following definition of “refugee” (with U.S. express addition for “past” persecution):

  • “ (A)ny person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality . . . and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of [past] persecution or a well-founded fear of [future] persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.. . . ”

As of January 20, 2020, there were 146 parties to the Convention and 147 to the Protocol.

  1. International Resettlement of Refugees[2]

After international cooperation on resettlement of specific groups of refugees, 1956-1995, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1995 organized the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement for the UNHCR, nation states and civil society. By the end of 2019, these consultations had established a global resettlement policy and procedures to attempt to provide locations for such resettlement that can provide the services that refugees need. These procedures have resulted in resettlement of over 1 million refugees: 90 percent of whom came from Myanmar, Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia and were resettled in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

At the end of 2019, the UNHCR estimated there were 26 million refugees in the world, about one half of whom are under the age of 18. This group is part of the 79.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world (the other 53.5 million are forcibly displaced within their own countries and thus not entitled to refugee status).

  1. U.S. Resettlement of Refugees[3]

The U.S. has participated in this international resettlement program under the overall direction of the Departments of State and Homeland Security.

Under U.S. law the U.S. President establishes annual quotas for such resettlements. The largest such quota was 200,000 in 1980 when President Carter led the U.S. adoption of the Refugee Act of 1980. In 1999 under President Clinton the quota was 132,631, and in 2016 under President Obama it was 84,994.

For Fiscal 2019 President Trump reduced the number of refugees for resettlement in U.S. to 15,000 and required cities and counties to file written affirmative consents for such resettlements with the State Department, but a federal court held that requirement was illegal. Nevertheless, many states, including Minnesota, granted such consents along with statements about the many contributions by refugees to their states.

President Biden initially said he would maintain the 15,000 quota set by Trump for this fiscal year, but after strong objections by influential Senators and others, the White House on May 3, 2021, stated the it was revising the quota to 62,500 for this fiscal year although it was unlikely that it would meet that number by that year’s end on 9/30/21. President Biden also said that he intends to increase the quota for the next fiscal year to 125,000.

  1. Refugee Resettlement in Minnesota [4]

From 2005 through 2019 the State of Minnesota had resettled 33,189 refugees. The largest numbers came from Somalia (13,674), Burma (8,604), Ethiopia (2,194), Laos (2,042), Iraq (1,290), Bhutan (1,188) and Liberia (1,171).

For Fiscal 2021 (ending 9/30/21), Minnesota had a resettlement goal of 500, but as of 5/12/21 had received only 30. They came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Ukraine and Republic of Moldova (Eastern European county and former part of USSR). Because of COVID-19, the goal of 500 probably will not be met.

For Fiscal 2022 (before the evacuation of Afghans), Minnesota expected to have a resettlement goal of 1,900 given President Biden’s stated intent to increase the national total to 125,000.

Such resettlements are coordinated by refugee resettlement agencies in the State: Minnesota Council of Churches (Refugee Services), International Institute of Minnesota, Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota and Arrive Ministries.

Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, where this blogger is a member, is launching its Refugee Co-Sponsorship Team of six to twelve individuals under the leadership of three “champions” with guidance of the Minnesota Council of Churches and anticipates receiving its first refugee family this October.

Our Team’s commitment is for four to six months starting with setting up an apartment selected by the Council with furnishings that it and our Team provides; welcoming the family on their arrival at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and transporting them to their apartment;  helping the family’s orientation to their new neighborhood, city and services; transporting them to various meetings and shopping; assisting school registration for any children and adult ESL enrollment; providing information about various public services and obligations; and helping them find employment. In short, being friends to our new residents. The co-sponsorship ends with a closing ceremony, transitioning the relationship to mutual friendship, rather than a continued helping relationship. [5]

U.S. Resettlement of Recent Afghan Evacuees.

The recent turmoil in Afghanistan has resulted  in the U.S. evacuation from that country of approximately 130,000 people (124,000 Afghans and 6,000 U.S. citizens).

Many of the Afghan allies with U.S. special immigrant visa applications and their families who recently escaped Afghanistan were flown from Kabul to Washington, D.C. for their subsequent transfer to U.S. forts in Virginia (Fort Lee),Texas (Fort Bliss) and western Wisconsin (Fort McCoy, which is about 169 miles southeast of Minneapolis). Others were flown to U.S. military bases in other countries for processing and hoped-for transfers to the U.S.[6]

This summary is based upon the cited sources with recognition that this is a very complex and changing situation and readers’ corrections and amplifications are most welcome.

  1. Legal Status of Afghan Evacuees[7]

Most, if not all, of these Afghans have not been through the previously described procedures for resettlement of refugees and have not been determined to meet the requirements for refugee status. (Some articles erroneously refer to them as “Afghan refugees.”)

Instead, they are being vetted by U.S. agencies for meeting the following requirements for Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (“SIVs”):

  • employment in Afghanistan for at least one year between October 7, 2001, and December 31, 2023, by or on behalf of the U.S. government or by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission in a capacity that required the applicant to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or to perform activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF; and
  • Have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing threat as a consequence of their employment.

Alternatively some Afghans might be eligible for Priority 2 (P-2) designation granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program access for Afghans and their eligible family members by satisfying one of the following conditions:

  • “Afghans who do not meet the minimum time-in-service for a SIV but who work or worked as employees of contractors, locally-employed staff, interpreters/translators for the U.S. government, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOXRX-A), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or Resolute Support;”
  • “Afghans who work or worked for a U.S. government-funded program or project in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement;” or
  • “Afghans who are or were employed in Afghistan by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization.”

Afghans also could be eligible for “the Priority (P-1) program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement who are referred to the P-1 program . . .  by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. embassy, or a designated NGO.”

However, an Associated Press reporter claims that “the majority will arrive without visas as ‘humanitarian parolees,’ lacking a path to legal U.S. residency and the benefits and services offered to traditional refugees, according to U.S. officials and worried aid groups working closely with the government.” Instead, “Afghan parolees who have arrived at U.S. military bases will be eligible for an ad hoc State Department program that provides limited assistance for up to 90 days, including a one-time $1,250 stipend. But they will not have the full range of medical, counseling and resettlement services available to immigrants who arrive through the U.S. refugee program.”

  1. U.S. Administrative Agencies Involved in “Operation Allies Welcome[8]

On August 19, 56 Senators sent a bipartisan letter to President Biden calling for “the urgent evacuation of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families, as well as the full and immediate implementation of [the above legislation] to expand the Afghan SIV program and streamline the application process.”

That message was in accord with the Biden Administration’s desires. On August 29, President Biden directed the Department of Homeland Security to be the lead agency coordinating this resettlement effort and that agency’s Secretary (Alejandro N. Mayorkas) simultaneously appointed Robert J. Fenton, Jr. with 29 years of experience in FEMA large-scale response and recovery efforts to lead the interagency Unified Coordination Group in this effort. He will be working with Jack Markell, a former Delaware Governor and now the White House’s coordinator of “Operation Allies Welcome.”

  1. Resettlement of Afghan Evacuees in U.S. [9]

Operation Allies Welcome is asking the nonprofit organizations that have contracted with the U.S. State Department for resettlement of refugees to also handle the resettlement of the Afghan evacuees. This task is made much more difficult by last year’s shrinkage of these agencies caused by President Trump’s reduction of the quota for such resettlement to 15,000 and the associated reduction of federal financial support for same and by the size and unresolved issues about the Afghan evacuees.

  1. Societal Reactions to Afghan Resettlement [10]

There are general reports about positive reactions to such resettlement from U.S. citizens and organizations.

The State of Minnesota did so in an August 19, 2021, letter to President Biden from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. It stated that Minnesota “in the past . . . has stepped forward to help those who are fleeing desperate situations and need a safe place to call home” while acknowledging, “New Minnesotans strengthen our communities and contribute to the social fabric of our state. They are our neighbors.” Therefore, “we [in Minnesota] stand ready to work with you and your administration to welcome [Afghan] families as this effort to provide safety and refuge continues.”

Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar has voiced a similar opinion by offering her office’s assistance to American citizens and Afghan allies looking to evacuate that country and by signing a bipartisan letter to the President urging support for evacuation efforts.

In addition, Temple Israel of Minneapolis is embarking on a program to help some of these Afghans to resettle in Minnesota and has enlisted Westminster Presbyterian Church as a co-sponsor for such resettlements. The Temple’s program probably springs from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) as well as a continuous Jewish presence in the territory of Afghanistan from the 8th century CE until the 20th century.[11]

Conclusion[12]

Westminster’s involvement with immigrants is not new in our 160 years. Indeed, the church was established in 1857 by Scottish and Welsh newcomers on land that had been home to the Dakota people for many generations. In 1870 we established our first global mission partnership after our third pastor had visited China and in the 1880s began a formal ministry teaching English and providing support to Chinese immigrants that continued in the 20th century.

Our church also has partnerships with Protestant churches in Cuba, Cameroon and Palestine.

These Westminster ministries are inspired by various Biblical passages.

The book of Leviticus says, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you. You shall love the sojourner as yourself, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19: 33-34.) (The Hebrew word for “alien” is “ger,”which means stranger in the land, one who sojourns among you.)

Jesus, of course, told stories about heroes who are disliked foreigners, like the good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) , or when He welcomes those whom others shun as outsiders, like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4: 1-26) and when He ignores the then current mandate no to pay attention to people living with leprosy or other illnesses (Matthew 8: 1-3).  As our Pastor, Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen said in his recent sermon, “As Christians, our core conviction insists on hospitality to those deemed other by the world around us—and anyone else known to be the most vulnerable in the community.”

======================================

[1] UNHCR, Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of RefugeesRefugee Act of 1980; Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Wikipedia; List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: LAW (REFUGEE & Asylum).

[2]  UNHCR, The History of Resettlement (2019).

[3] U.S. State Dep’t, About Refugee AdmissionsU.S. State Governments Celebrate Refugee Accomplishments, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 2, 2020); U.S. State Dep’t, Report to Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021 (Oct. 22, 2020); U.S. Reduces Refugee Admissions to 15,000 for Fiscal 2021, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct.  2, 2020); U.S. State Dep’t, Report to Congress on the Proposed Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021 (Feb. 12, 2021); Joe Biden Raises Trump refugee cap  after backlash, BBC News (May 4, 2021);UNHCR, UNHCR applauds US decision to increase refugee resettlement (May 3, 2001). Minnesota Council of Churches, Refugee Services.

[5]  Minnesota Council of Churches, Refugee Services; Minnesota Council of Churches, Help Afghan Refugees (Aug. 30, 2021); Campbell, Schulze & Krohnke, Our Refugee Family Co-Sponsorship: An Invitation to Love the Sojourner Among Us, Westminster News (Sept. 2021).

[6] U.S. Defense Dep’t, U.S. Seeks to Open More Locations to Aid Evacuation From Kabul, General Says, DOD News (Aug. 21, 2021); Assoc. Press, Afghan refugees arrive, temporarily, in northern Virginia, Wash. Post (Aug. 22, 2021); Assoc. Press, Afghan refugees begin arriving at Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin, StarTribune (Aug. 23, 2021); Musa, The United States Needs an Afghan Refugee Resettlement Act, Foreign Policy (Aug. 19, 2021), ; Baghdassarian & Carney, Special Immigrant Visas for the United States’ Afghan Allies, Lessons Learned from Promises Kept and Broken, Lawfare (Aug. 19, 2021),

[7] State Dep’t, Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans—Who Were Employed by/on behalf of the U.S. Government; State Dep’t, U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Priority Designation 2 for Afghan Nationals (Aug. 2, 2021); Press Release, BREAKING: Senate Passes Shaheen-Ernst Bill to Protect Afghan Allies through SIV Program as Part of Supplemental Spending Bill (July 29, 2021); Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, Public Law 117-331, enacted on July 30, 2021; Assoc. Press, For Afghan evacuees arriving to U.S., a tenuous legal status and little financial support, Wash. Post (Sept. 1, 2021).

[8] Shaheen, Ernst Lead Bipartisan Effort Urging the Administration on Immediate Evacuation & Full Implementation of their SIV Legislation Aug. 19, 2021). Homeland Security Dep’t, DHS to Serve as Lead Federal Agency Coordinating Efforts to Resettle Vulnerable Afghans, (Aug. 29, 2021); Sacchetti, Miroff & Demirjian, Biden names former Delaware governor Jack Markell to serve as point person on Afghan resettlement in the United States, Wash. Post (Sept. 3, 2021).

[9] U.S. Refugee Organizations Race to Prepare for Influx of Afghans, W.S.J. (Aug. 31, 2021). Hackman, Afghan Refugees in the U.S.: How They’re Vetted, Where They Are going and How to Help, W.S.J. (Sept. 3, 2021). Assoc. Press, US faith groups unite to help Afghan refugees after war, StarTribune (Sept. 2, 2021).

[10] Office of Governor Walz & Lt. Governor Flanagan, Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan: Minnesota Stands ready to Welcome Afghan Refugee Families (Aug. 19, 2021); Assoc. Press, Walz extends Minnesota’s welcome mat to Afghan refugees (StarTribune (Aug. 20, 2021). News Release, Klobuchar Announces Office Assistance for Americans and Afghan Allies Evacuating Afghanistan (Aug. 18, 2021).

[11] HIAS Statement on Afghanistan Crisis (Aug. 16, 2021); History of the Jews in Afghanistan, Wikipedia; Oreck, Afghanistan Virtual Jewish History Tour, Jewish Virtual Library; The Jews of Afghanistan, Museum of the Jewish People.  Westminster’s Response to Crisis in Afghanistan (Aug. 8, 2021).

[12] Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen & Rev. David Tsai Shinn, Sermon: Concerning the Sojourner (June 20, 2021). Westminster Presbyterian Church, Global Partners Ministry Team.

 

Witnessing

Witnessing is an important human activity and responsibility.

Sometimes witnessing is a planned activity, like attending or watching and listening to a concert, play, movie, sporting event or a church worship service and then reporting (orally or in writing) what happened to others. Witnessing sometimes, however, is not planned beforehand when you observe something happening in your presence and subsequently tell others what you had observed.

Witnessing by Darnella Frazier [1]

An important example of the latter type of witnessing was provided by Darnella Frazier, a 17-year-old high school student, in Minneapolis at the corner of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street on May 25, 2020.

By happenstance she and her nine-year-old cousin walked from their home to the nearby Cup Foods store on that corner to buy some snacks. When they arrived at the store they noticed in the street a Minneapolis police car where a black man (George Floyd) was pinned in pain on the pavement by three Minneapolis policemen. Frazier immediately got out her cell phone and started a video recording of this event and then held her camera steady for over the next ten minutes until the Black man apparently died. She then  posted this video recording on her FACEBOOK page, which immediately was seen by many people around the world.

The next day in an interview by the StarTribune Frazier said she started the video recording ”as soon as I heard  . .  [the Black man] trying to fight for his life. It was like a natural instinct, honestly. The world needed to see what I was seeing. Stuff like this happens in silence too many times.” She hoped that the video can in some way bring about “peace and equality. We are tired of [police] killing us.” It was obvious to her that the officer had “seen how weak [Floyd] was, and he still proceeded. . . . My video proves what really happened.”

Frazier amplified her remarks in March 2021 FACEBOOK postings. “George Floyd was already cuffed on the ground, a knee to the neck when [the] restraint already is absolutely unnecessary. The man was begging for his life and Chauvin did not care. He deserves to go down.” Moreover, I can’t go to sleep in silence, my mind will eat me alive.” Frazier also criticized the falsity of the Minneapolis Police Department’s initial public report of this incident that stated the following:

  • “On Monday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South on a report of a forgery in progress.  Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence.”
  • “Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car.  He was ordered to step from his car.  After he got out, he physically resisted officers.”
  • Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”
  • “Officers called for an ambulance.  He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”
  • “At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.”
  • “The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate this incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department.”
  • “No officers were injured in the incident.”
  • “Body worn cameras were on and activated during this incident.”

At Chauvin’s recently concluded criminal trial, Frazier was the fourth witness called by the prosecution and provided moving and emotional testimony about what she observed and did that day. “When I look at George Floyd I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black. I have a Black father, I have Black brothers, I have Black friends. I look at that and how it could have been one of them. It’s been nights I’ve stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. It’s not what I should have done. It’s what he [Chauvin] should have done.” She also testified that Chauvin had a “cold look—heartless. It didn’t seem like he cared.”

In cross examination, defense counsel Erik Nelson was trying to fabricate a scene with bystanders becoming increasingly hostile to the point of creating a potential threat to the officers. Frazier agreed that bystanders were getting louder and angrier, but she added that she didn’t think anyone was ever threatening Chauvin.

After the jury on April 20th rendered its verdict that Chauvin was guilty on all three counts, Frazier said on FACEBOOK, “I just cried so hard. This last hour my heart was beating so fast, I was so anxious, anxiety [busting] through the roof. But to know GUILTY ON ALL 3 CHARGES !!! THANK YOU GOD THANK YOU … George Floyd we did it!! Justice has been served.”

Courage Award for Darnella Frazier [2]

Praise for Frazier’s actions at the scene of the Floyd killing actually started in October 2020, when PEN America, which works to defend and celebrate free expression in the United States and worldwide through the advancement of literature and human rights, announced that it was granting its annual Benenson Courage Award to Frazier. The announcement stated the following:

  • “In May 2020, Frazier documented the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, one of whom—Derek Chauvin—pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck, well after Floyd lost consciousness. Frazier’s video quickly spread across social media and led to a wave of community outrage, a major investigation, and Chauvin’s arrest, as well as the dismissal of [him and] the three other officers. Floyd’s killing, along with the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, and others, drove a wave of activism across the country crying out for racial and economic justice.”

This award was presented at a virtual ceremony on December 8, 2020, by Spike Lee, the famous Oscar-winning film director. He said, “I’m so proud of my sister. She documented the murder of George Floyd, our brother, King Floyd. And that footage reverberated around this God’s earth, and people took to the streets all over this earth. Not just the United States of America, and it wasn’t just Black people either. Everybody took to the streets. My sister, I commend you, and you deserve  . . . the PEN/Benenson Courage Award. The [important] word is courage!”

Ms. Frazier accepted the Award with these comments: “ I would like to say thank you for honoring me with this PEN/Benenson Courage Award. I never would imagine out of my whole 17 years of living that this will be me. It’s just a lot to take in, but I couldn’t say thank you enough for everything that’s been coming towards me. Thanks to Mr. Lee for presenting this, and I appreciate that. Thank you for the PEN/Benenson Courage Award.”

Then followed thank you’s for her courage from attendees, including Meryl Streep, Anita Hill and U.S. Senator Cory Booker.

Other Praises for Frazier [3]

Many others have praised Frazier for her courage and quick-thinking on May 25th.

Her recording this video was praised at a June 11, 2020, press conference by Minneapolis Police chief Medaria Arradondo, “I am thankful, absolutely, that this [police encounter] was captured in the manner it was. [In similar situations, he encouraged others,]“Record, Record, absolutely. Record, call . . . a friend. Yell out. Call 911. We need a supervisor on the scene. Absolutely, we need to know that. So the community [should[ play a vital role and did two weeks ago.”

Chauvin’s conviction brought immediate praise for Frazier. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said, Frazier’s taking “that video, I think many folks know, is maybe the only reason that Derek Chauvin will go to prison.” The NAACP in North Carolina, the state where Floyd was born. stated “The video shot by a high school student will go down in history. Not even many of Chauvin’s police colleagues, could argue against Ms. Frazier’s film.” Oprah Winfrey tweeted, “I’m grateful to the witnesses and their testimonies. Grateful to Darnella Frazier. Grateful to every juror for seeing and acknowledging what the world saw on that tape. Thank you God for real!”

Michelle Norris, a Washington Post columnist and a Minnesota native and graduate of the University of Minnesota, states Frazier “was the witness George Floyd needed on May 25, 2020. She was the witness we all needed—the public, the police, a country still grappling with racial codes that are stitched into the fabric of our governing institutions. She is the hero of this story.”

Norris continued, “Her bravery is a reminder that we too must not look away, and not just in the most wicked moments of bias but also in the small things that grease the runway toward larger prejudice. We must not look away when we see the softer kind of oppression that masks itself in offhand comments, and jokes, and the denigration and dismissal of ‘those people.’”

“And when I say ‘we,’ I am also talking about our public servants and especially our law enforcement officers who know too well that there are those in their ranks who ‘police’ from a dark and dangerous perspective. They know that some officers are guided by prejudice and proceed from warped beliefs. Those officers debase the entire profession.”

Conclusion

 Seven other bystanders to the killing of George Floyd testified in the Chauvin trial, including Judeah Reynolds, who is Frazier’s nine-year-old cousin. As Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said in his closing argument, all of these bystander witnesses “were a bouquet  of humanity.”[4]

All of the bystanders testimony was  applauded by two prominent journalists. For Frank Bruni, the New York times columnist, these witnesses are “tormented by their memories of Floyd’s last minutes” and Floyd’s and their sense of “helplessness” of not being able to stop what was being done to Floyd. The Chicago Tribune’s columnist, Heidi Stevens, called these bystanders “stone catchers” or people who stand up and intervene when someone’s been wrongly accused and condemned. (This phrase is based upon Jesus rebuking men who were ready to stone to death a woman caught in adultery by asking them who is without sin to cast the first stone, which prompted all the men to drop their stones and walk away and upon Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative coining  the phrase “stone catchers.” [4]

This reference to the Bible should remind those of religious faith of our calling to be witnesses and give testimony. This is not easy. You have to give your account of what happened and your belief as to what it means. The person has to stand and say what he or she believes about God.

================================

[1] Walsh, For first time, Minneapolis teen opens up about her viral George Floyd arrest video, StarTribune (Mar. 12, 2021); Minneapolis Police Department, Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction (May 25, 2020); Paybarah, How a teenager’s video upended the police department’s initial tale, N.Y. Times (April 20, 2021); Bogel-Burroughs & Arango, Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed George Floyd’s arrest, testifies at the trial, N.Y. Times (Mar. 30, 2021);  Assoc. Press, [Video] ‘He Was Suffering’: Teenager Who Filmed Floyd’s Arrest Testifies at Trial, N.Y. Times (Mar. 30, 2021); Watch the replays” Day 2 testimony of witnesses Donald Williams and Darnella Frazier, StarTribune (Mar. 30, 2021); Xiong, Walsh & Olson, Teen who recorded George Floyd’s death reveals trauma, pain in testimony, StarTribune (Mar. 31, 2021); Jackson, Derek Chauvin trial shows people who film police violence later struggle with trauma, StarTribune (April 2, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Four, dwkcommentaries.com (April 4, 2021); Knowles & Belia, Darnella Frazier, teen who filmed Floyd’s arrest, celebrates Chauvin’s guilty verdict: ‘Justice has been served,’ Wash. Post (April 21, 2021); Yan, A teen with ‘a cell phone and sheer guts’ is credited for Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction, cnn.comm (April 21, 2021); Fowler, You have the right to film police. Here’s how to do it effectively—and safely, Wash. Post (April 22, 2021).

[2] See note 1 supra. See also Walsh, Minneapolis teen ‘humbled’ to receive national Courage Award for filming George Floyd’s killing by police, StarTribune (Oct. 29, 2020); PEN America, Darnella Frazier, Dec. 8, 2020); Walsh, Minneapolis teen receives prestigious award for recording George Floyd video, StarTribune (Dec. 10, 2020).

[3] Norris, Opinion: Darnella Frazier is the hero of this story, Wash. Post (April 21, 2021). This blog has frequently commented about Bryan Stevenson’s amazing legal representation of death-row inmates and others. See also Sullivan, By bearing witness—and hitting ‘record’—17-year-old Darnella Frazier may have changed the world, Wash. Post (April 20, 2021.).

[4] The other bystander witnesses were Alyssa Funaru (17 years old), Kaylynn Gilbert (17 years old), Genevieve Hansen, Donald Williams II, Christopher Belfrey and Charles McMillian. (Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Four, dwkcommentaries.com (April 4, 2021). Bruni, Listening to Those Who Saw George Floyd Die, N.Y. Times (April 24, 2021); Stevens, ‘The world needed to see what I was seeing,’ StarTribune (April 23, 2021)..

Pandemic Journal (# 40): The Latest on the COVID-19 Pandemic   

As of the end of February 2021, the word had recorded 114,681,354 COVID-19 coronavirus cases and 2,542,827 deaths.  The statistics for the U.S. were 29,255,365 cases and 525,778 deaths. For the State of Minnesota, 485,000 cases and 6,551 deaths. [1]

Now good news about the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. Worldwide, 244 million vaccine does have been provided with 53.5 million people fully vaccinated. For the U.S.: 75.2 million doses and 24.8 million fully vaccinated. For the State of Minnesota, 1.39 million; and 454,000 fully vaccinated people.[2]

Last week another vaccine, this one by Johnson & Johnson, joined vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna that have been approved for use in the U.S.[3]

Moreover, the numbers of new cases and deaths are decreasing in Minnesota and many other parts of the U.S. although there is concern that the numbers might be increasing again.[4]

This blogger and his wife are thankful that they have not contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus and by the end of this week, as senior citizens, both of us will have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. We also are thankful that our immediate family members have not contracted the coronavirus and pray for their continued good health and eventually becoming eligible for the vaccinations.

I also continue to find comfort and spiritual renewal in this stressful Pandemic by attending virtual worship services and adult education programs at my Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian.

Biblical Text for Recent Worship Service

The lives of the 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 were memorialized in the February 28th worship service at Westminster.

The Biblical text for the day  was from the Christian Bible’s Old Testament’s Book of Lamentations (1: 1-4), which generally is thought to have been written by the Prophet Jeremiah to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Here is that passage:

“How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;
she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to the festivals;
all her gates are desolate,
her priests groan;
her young girls grieve,
and her lot is bitter.”

The Sermon, “Listening to Lament” [5]

 The sermon, “Listening to Lament,”  by Senior Pastor Tim Hart-Andersen, featured the lighting of 50 candles and the naming of 50 Americans, chosen at random, each to honor 10,000 of the 500,000 deceased.

The Pastor emphasized that each of these people had unique lives that will be missed by their relatives and friends and that lamenting their dying was important for all of us. He recalled he and his wife’s visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which has the names of the 58,318 Americans who were killed during that war engraved on a granite wall, and observing people standing near the names of their loved ones on the wall and crying.

The Pastor also said that this honoring the 500,000 was also an occasion to express gratitude for their lives, to acknowledge the resilience of their survivors in many ways, to recognize and help the many partners each of us as individuals and as a community of faith have, to continue to be engaged in efforts to improve the justice of our health system and access to medical care and vaccines and to say thanks for the generosity of many people helping others and our communities of faith.

===========================

[1] COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic,worldometer.

[2] Vaccine doses overview, Our World in Data.

[3] Weiland & LaFraniere, F.D.A. Clears Johnson & Johnson’s Shot, the third Vaccine for U.S., N.Y. Times (Feb. 27, 2021).

[4] Snowbeck, Minnesota’s COVID cases are down, but for how long?, StarTribune (Feb. 27, 2021); Cunningham & Hawkins, Global coronavirus numbers edging back up after weeks of decline, says WHO, Wash. Post (Mar. 2, 2021); Greve, CDC chief warns of ‘potential fourth surge’ and warns US to keep Covid rules, Guardian (Mar. 1, 2021); Reuters, Decline in Coronavirus “May Be Stalling,’ C.D.C. Director Warns (Video),N.Y. Times (Feb. 26, 2021).

[5] The video and bulletin for the service are online. The text of this sermon will be added to the Westminster website.

Pandemic Journal (# 39): Amanda Gorman’s Poetic Reference to Micah 4: 1-5

The last Pandemic Journal entry discussed Amanda Gorman’s beautiful inaugural poem, which was referenced in this morning’s sermon at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church with a cryptic comment that the poem had references to the Book of Micah, a book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.[1]

After the service, a quick examination of the Book of Micah found  verses 4:1-5 and the poem’s following passage: “Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.”

Here is that passage from Micah (NRSV):

“In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.”

“Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say:
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

“He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;”

 “but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”

“For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.”

In other words, the poem’s title (“The Hill We Climb”) refers to Micah’s prophecy that the Lord’s house shall be established “as the highest of the mountains” and that “peoples shall stream to it [so that God ] may teach us his ways  and that we may walk in his paths.”

Then God “shall beat their swords into plowshares , and their spears into pruning hooks, Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Thereafter, all the people “shall sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”

=============================

[1]  The bulletin for today’s Westminster service is on the church website, and the recording of the service will be added later this week.