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After A Tragic Week, Many In Minneapolis Seek Solace In The Sanctuary

Worshippers bow their heads as the Rev. David A. Keaton leads them in prayer at the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Worshippers bow their heads as the Rev. David A. Keaton leads them in prayer at the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Across the nation, people of faith attended services Sunday morning searching for guidance from their religious leaders following the week's violence. In suburban Minneapolis, where school cafeteria supervisor Philando Castile was killed by Officer Geronimo Yanez on Wednesday night, worshippers said the burden felt especially heavy.

At the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Ethel Rhines, a 50-year-resident of the city, said that after the difficult week, she had come to church in search of "an uplift."

"It takes a toll on a person to see that so much killing is going on," Rhines said. "It stops for a little while, but the next thing you know someone else is being shot, and it starts all over again."

Her pastor, the Rev. David A. Keaton, told his mostly black congregation that he had visited the home of Philando Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, on Saturday, and had been stunned by the resilience of her faith in God, despite her son's killing.

"Isn't that amazing?" he asked. "Her son, not only was he unjustly killed, from what we can see, but ... can you imagine as a mother having to watch and have everyone around you watch your son take his last breaths of life?"

Congregants listen to the Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink deliver the sermon at the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis on Sunday.
Adrian Florido / NPR
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Congregants listen to the Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink deliver the sermon at the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis on Sunday.

Across town, some seven miles away at the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, Minister Elaine Aron Tenbrink implored her mostly white congregation to understand that the privilege and power they enjoy for being white is not equally shared by their black and brown neighbors.

"Could there be anything more anathema to what we stand for as people of faith than this?" she asked. Not only do white people benefit from this social arrangement, she said, they also "are socialized to be utterly blind to anything but its most abject manifestations."

She said it was incumbent on white people to use that privilege to help change things for black and brown people, by using their influence on lawmakers and at protests.

"I know it's hard," she said, "But it is not nearly as hard as never hearing your son call your name again, because he has committed the crime of 'driving while black.' "

"I am here with you," she offered, echoing what Diamond Reynolds' 4-year-old daughter can be heard telling her mother as she breaks down in the video showing Philando Castile's final moments.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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