Dispatches from Palmer St. #12
Dear members and friends of St. Marcus,
Well, at least we’re not talking about COVID all the time.
The events in Minneapolis have seized the attention not just of the U.S. but the entire world. Mr. Floyd’s death has electrified hundreds of thousands of protesters everywhere. Whether people wanted to or not, they cannot now avoid serious conversations about race.
St. Marcus’ location in Milwaukee brought us early to this table. Milwaukee’s black population was tiny before WWII, fewer than 10,000. Most lived near downtown between 3rd-12th Sts. and State to North Ave. After the war Milwaukee’s black population grew rapidly. At the same time the children of the German immigrants in St. Marcus’ neighborhood steadily moved north and west.
St. Marcus had to decide whether to relocate, pursuing their membership, or staying on Palmer St. and seeking to serve new people. In 1960 the congregation voted to stay. That decision was put to a severe test in the racial unrest of the 1960s and the breaking point in 1967 when our neighborhood blew up in three days of dreadful rioting. But St. Marcus hung on and stayed the course, determined to figure out how to become a multiracial spiritual family.
That resoluteness of purpose is what we need today. Hang on, friends, no matter what race you are! We need three levels of relationships: first, acceptance. We must keep working on building worship and learning places that welcome all people. Second, love. Love extends value and worth to people, just as Christ’s love gives us a feeling of value and worth. And third, appreciation. Appreciative eyes see all the value that new people bring to a ministry, and appreciative tongues are generous with words of affirmation and praise.
St. Marcus is a much better place integrated. I am personally grateful for all the gifts and energy that our black members have brought and continue to bring. It is my hope and prayer that we will be as tough and patient as the earlier generation. We can’t bring George Floyd back to earth. But we can rededicate ourselves to building a diverse and inclusive membership and ministry that will gain respect from the community and give glory to God.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:5-7).
Pastor Mark Jeske