NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Friday November 16th 2018

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Houses and churches demolished! But loss of trust is the larger tragedy!

BY HARVEY WINJE

A personal note of transparency:

1953: At age 13, I was taught to trust leaders by Reverend Dr. Leonard Kendall, Messiah Church Pastor, in the Catechism class in the basement of that same church. He strictly taught that when in class or in the Sanctuary facing the leader at the front, we were never to glance back or worry about any noise or activity behind us because our trust must be in the leader at the front who will always have our backs! It is uncertain whether that advice came from his U.S. Marine Corp training or Biblical study. In either case, he was wrong. Subsequent leadership betrayed trust. The leader cannot always be trusted!

1973: Twenty years later, Messiah Church Pastor Rev. Peter Erickson stood in the Sanctuary strictly advocating that the Messiah Congregation, Minnesota Lutheran Church in America (MNLCA) and the national LCA deny a funding request from the American Indian Movement (AIM) because of how they would use the money. AIM, founded in Minneapolis (1968) to improve Native American housing, education, employment, and the restoration of civil rights and cultural traditions previously granted in Treaties with the U.S. Government, advocated for Treaty Rights in all states and especially in Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973. Erickson impugned and demeaned AIM members, leadership, and motives. Erickson continued the betrayal of the trust that made the Treaties possible and validated the breaking of the Treaties by the U.S. The leader cannot always be trusted!

2018: Today, Messiah Church Sanctuary has been demolished and that basement is packed full of the debris of the tumbled walls and flooring of the Sanctuary as the whole building is crushed so that it’s proper entropy—“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,”—can be fulfilled. The “leaders at the front” have betrayed the Community. The trust that was slowly built during thousands of hours of struggle between neighbors and institutions has bitten the dust and it doesn’t taste good. When will trust ever be restored? Will it be restored at all?

Perhaps the demolition of Messiah Church is a fitting symbol of trust demolished; because of losing a block of housing, a historic church building, a betrayed covenant, and, more importantly, of trust lost in keeping promises of civil rights to the indigenous people of this land.

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