My congregation is heartbroken, but not because we want to “reopen,” as state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka tweeted yesterday. The church is more alive and more open than ever — worshiping, caring for each other and serving our community.
No, we are hurting because we see how our neighbors are hurting. We have converted our little free library into a little free food shelf. Every day, we replenish the shelves. And, every day, within a few hours, they grow bare again.
The truth is, a few are hoarding the abundance that should be shared among all of us. It’s time for the wealthy to step up and do their part.
We could have paid family leave for everyone. We could assist struggling renters and landlords. We could distribute grants to families most in need, using federal funds that are already available. We could support undocumented households. We could begin to repair deep, systemic inequities that advantage whites while literally taking the lives of people of color.
The Minnesota Senate is blocking all efforts to care for our community in these ways. Sen. Gazelka, please stop worrying about “reopening” churches and start building the caring and equitable Minnesota we all want to live in.
The Rev. Jane McBride, Minneapolis
The writer is pastor at First Congregational Church of Minnesota.
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Thanks to the Star Tribune for printing Rev. John Ubel’s letter on Friday (“We safely hold more than 10”) about safe-distancing practices in a church the size of the Cathedral. Early in the shutdown, I went to the Cathedral during confession time when it was open. Although I am not a parishioner, the Cathedral has been the most comforting of spaces, a place where I can be at peace, in silence. A man came to ask me if I was going to confession. I told him that I was there to pray and think about my oldest friend who was in hospice in California. No one, not even her husband, could see her. He nodded and left me in peace. He was only doing what the shutdown required of him.
The experience made me angry. The church I go to was completely off-limits. At one of the worst times in the life of our country, the doors of the churches are locked. I remember from my Catholic youth people saying that the Cathedral was everyone’s church. Gov. Tim Walz called the State Capitol “the people’s house.” Ubel, with his calculations of people vs. pews, makes a powerful case for changing the requirement. How powerful his last words: “A limit of 10 appears unscientific, unjustified and, dare I say, capricious. What a shame.”
Norita Dittberner-Jax, St. Paul
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I am a lifelong Catholic. I miss going to church on Sundays, and I miss seeing and connecting there with my friends and fellow parishioners. But because I value their lives, the lives of my parents and the health and well-being of my neighbors of all ages, races and health statuses, I know that we cannot go back to church while the coronavirus is still tearing through our communities. We have to put our people first.
It makes me angry to see leaders in our state Senate put other interests first, refusing to fund rental, mortgage and child-care assistance at a level that meets the need, or to send ballots to all eligible voters, and pushing to get businesses and churches open before we’ve even reached the peak of the pandemic.
We need elected officials who will put the people of Minnesota first, no matter how much money they have or how long they have lived here. This year we have an opportunity to elect a Legislature that knows we are here for each other and that our government is meant to be there for us.
Sarah Gleason, St. Paul
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Regarding “Dialing down lockdown,” front page, May 14: As the associate minister at Mayflower Church in Minneapolis, I want to be abundantly clear that our place of worship never “closed.” So there is nothing to “reopen.” We did however, cease to gather in-person to worship.
As a people whose priority is life and the well-being of creation, we are taking the suggestions from public health experts about gathering just as seriously as we are taking God’s commandments in scripture to love our neighbor. The spirit of God is not quarantined, even if we are.
The Rev. Christian Briones, Minneapolis
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I applaud Walz’s leadership in slowly and carefully easing Minnesotans back into the world. Per Walz, “It means we have to stay safe, take care, care for our own health and care for our neighbor.” Caring for each other is a value, deeply grounded in my faith, that I hold dearly and that needs to continue through collective efforts for the long term. As a person of faith, who misses the traditions and intergenerational personal connections that go with weekly, in-person worship services, I respect and will honor the small-group restrictions.
Christine Danielson, St. Paul
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Creative places of worship have found a multitude of ways to stay connected during COVID-19 thanks to today’s technology and caring people who have supported one another during this crisis. Let’s continue to protect those around us by resuming in-person worship only when it is safe to do so. That’s what loving your neighbor looks like.
Rachel Holmes, Minnetonka
Give aid where it’s needed. Period.
D.J. Tice misses the larger point in his commentary justifying the Republican opposition to further “pandemic-related federal aid to states” as “bailing out” blue states (“Blue state/red state, rich state/poor state: Who’s bailing out whom?” Opinion Exchange, May 15). The novel coronavirus is a natural disaster. When a natural disaster strikes, the federal government provides relief to where the disaster strikes: If a hurricane strikes primarily Mississippi, aid is focused there. No inquiry into the status of the Mississippi’s budget is, or should be, a condition for this financial support.
The disease caused by the coronavirus is a hurricane focused on urban areas where population density facilitates its disastrous spread. Federal aid needs to center on where the needs are greatest. The states with the greatest urban concentration tend to be “blue.”
Seeing blue, the Republican Senate now evaluates the budgets of states as a condition of aid. Airlines hit hard by the coronavirus? Give them billions of bailout dollars without regard to their balance sheets or financial practices. Republican senators like to highlight the pension-fund deficit in Illinois but ignore pension deficits of corporate bailout recipients. Forbes has reported that Delta Air Lines uses optimistic and unrealistic investment returns to minimize its massive pension underfunding.
Unlike the budget the Republican Senators oversee, Minnesota’s budget is balanced and the state prudently maintains a rainy-day fund. However, the scope of the pandemic and the failure of the federal government to develop and implement an early and coordinated response to the pandemic has required the states to shoulder the burden of confronting the coronavirus.
As with a hurricane, I don’t care whether states are red, blue, purple or green — get the funds to those states on the front line of fighting the natural disaster and protecting the health of their citizens.
Brad Engdahl, Minneapolis
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