The city has lost a landmark: Walker Church burned down on Sunday after being struck by lightning. It's a devastating loss to the members of the Walker community, many of whom put hours and hours of their own labor into maintaining the 100+ year old church. It's also a blow to the many community groups who used the building for office and meeting space, including Communities Unitied Against Police Brutality and Occupy MN.
I'm writing about this because it's also a loss to me and my family. Though I'm not a member of Walker, it's the church my father served until his death in 2005, the church that filled to capacity for his funeral. My sister and mother - clearly singing her heart out - appear in the Star Tribune's front page photo of the Walker congregation.
Walker was a beautiful building. The sanctuary had a stage, seating and acoustics so good for live performance that a group of friends and I organized a short-lived cabaret there in the early 2000s. The floor felt almost sprung, and seemed to sway with the congregation when they sang 'Amazing Grace' or 'Everybody's Moon.' It felt comfortable, even cozy, a welcoming physical space that suited its uniquely welcoming congregation.
I want to thank the Minneapolis firefighters who tried to save the Walker, especially those who were injured: Kathrynne Baumtrog, Captain Paul Baumtrog, Captain Joe Mattison, Firefighter Sandy Meredith and Firefighter Christie Nixon.
As traumatic as this is, I am confident that the Walker community will stay strong together. As Walter Lockhart said, the people are the church. And the seeds they've planted in the community are now ready to support them in their time of need. For example, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater, which started at Walker, has offered to let the congregation worship in its theater on Lake Street.
It's a new journey, and it will be difficult. But I know the folks from Walker will go together, and will sing the whole way.