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North Minneapolis churches collaborate on Spoken "Words of Hope"

About 100 people came together in the fellowship hall of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis, on Saturday, February 2, 2008, for a service of songs, poetry, and a brief message. The service was the second Spoken Word service at Salem. It was hosted and organized by two college students, Brenda Blackhawk and Rachel Carmichael.
Blackhawk and Carmichael are both members of Salem, residents of north Minneapolis, and sophomores at the University of Minnesota. In September they presented the idea of a spoken word service to Pastor Roger Hardy. The first service was held in November. Redeemer Lutheran Church (ELCA), another North Minneapolis congregation, was invited to participate in the followup service with the theme “Words of Hope: Building Community, Inspiring Change.”
After a welcome by Carmichael, a worship band consisting of Salem and Redeemer musicians opened the evening with contemporary worship songs. An “open mic” time, hosted by college student Morgan Toley of Salem, allowed everyone present to share a poem or reading. Members of both churches presented. Subjects varied from eating chicken to Bible stories to splashing with God in the puddles. Toley introduced each presenter and followed each piece with a commentary. Impressed with each piece, he often began his commentary with “That was hot!”
After a few more songs, Babbette from Redeemer shared a message about hope, combining illustrations from the literary classic Great Expectations with the life of a North Minneapolis resident who survived being shot. Her final point was that hope means “trusting that the Bible is true, and that God will do what He says he will do.”
After a few more songs, some “featured artists” presented work they had been asked to prepare specifically for this service. These poems ranged from a piece by Toley about the hope for life of a dear companion, his dog, to a piece by high school graduate Mikael Rowlings about the hope that the voices of African-American history makers will continue to be heard. Two students from the University of Minnesota concluded the featured artist section with a piece about the need to get beyond all that divides in order to build community.
The evening concluded with a word from Pastor Hardy, who said that his “hope has taken on flesh and blood in what has happened tonight.” He continued to say that “this is what the church needs to be. This is what the church is.”
The next Spoken Word service is planned for Saturday, April 5, and will take place at Redeemer Lutheran Church. The theme for that service will be “Words of Forgiveness.” The service is open to all members of the community.
When asked for their reactions to the service, Patrick Henry sophomore Cha said, “I think it was inspirational.” She added that she liked that the two churches got together, and her hope for the future was that “it keeps going.” Cha, a member of Salem, is involved in some programming at Redeemer and was influential in the conversation between the two churches.
Four-year-old Abby, the youngest person in attendance, said that she “liked the music and the poems.” Another Salem member said that “even old people like it!” University of St. Catherine sophomore Mary Paulson, a resident of North Minneapolis and a member at Salem, said that she hopes the Spoken Word services will be a place where “people who can’t relate to traditional worship will find a place where they feel comfortable.” Babbette said that she hopes the service “takes off!” She added that she sees the Spoken Word service as “the Lord…expanding territory in non-traditional forms of worship.”
Carmichael said she was extremely satisfied with the outcome of this second service. “On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 10,” she said, adding that “it always turns out better than I expected.” She hopes the services will attract more people and the community will be more involved. She also wants more people to contribute during the open mic time and more ages represented throughout the service. “It’s for everybody!” she concluded.
For more information about upcoming Spoken Word services, contact Salem Lutheran Church (612/521-3644) or Redeemer Lutheran Church (www.redeemer or 612/374-4139).