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"There was so much life in those walls": Mourning the loss of Walker Community Church
It is a testament to the breadth of Walker Community Church’s engagement in the greater community that two meetings were held to gather people together less than one day after a fire devastated the South Minneapolis church. At the first, held early Monday morning, church congregants gathered to sing together, to mourn, and to talk about moving forward. A similar meeting was held Monday afternoon at Waite House. This latter meeting was for community organizers, activists, neighbors and friends, many of whom also call the church home.
75 people attended the meeting facilitated by members of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) and Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), two groups who maintained offices in the Church. Some time was devoted to sharing potential resources and also known needs of groups who relied on the Walker’s generous support of the social justice movement. Countless groups held regular meetings and events in the building. Groups who rented office space in the Walker, including MIRAC, CUAPB, and the Welfare Rights Committee, have lost furniture, supplies, and, perhaps most devastatingly, recorded history. A specific request was made to help to replace this loss with photos or documents that people have collected over the years. One member of a South Minneapolis church suggested that this was an opportunity for other churches to engage in social justice organizing in the way that the Walker always has.
For the most part, though, the meeting was a space to mourn a tremendous loss to the community. Attendees told of connections to groups and events housed in the Church that spanned decades. Time and again, people shared finding themselves at Walker Church when they had nowhere else to go. Members Committee to Stop FBI Repression told of finding themselves at the Church when their houses were raided by the FBI in September, 2010. “Inside that church was safety and security for groups that did work that was controversial,” said Michelle Gross, of CUAPB.
Although many people communicated faith that the Church will rebuild and grow, there also seemed to be a shared sense that the loss was more than physical. “It really does feel like mourning the loss of a life,” said one person, whose childhood home was on the same block as the Walker, "because there was so much life in those walls.”
©2012 Emily Pearson Ryan