A Sanctuary from Despair and Destruction

Sept. 13, 2021

Angie Khabeb '05 Somehow, as fire from the protests of George Floyd’s killing destroyed most of the surrounding buildings, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church was spared.

So the church became something of an around-the-clock relief spot for residents in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. For the Rev. Angie Khabeb ’05, the congregation’s associate pastor, the days and weeks passed in a blur.

First, the building became a makeshift medical station, mostly to treat burns people suffered from tear gas. Then clergy and volunteers turned it into a distribution site for food and household supplies.

With grocery stores burned and bus service offline, Pastor Khabeb says the neighborhood “became a food desert, like, overnight.” Holy Trinity kept giving out food throughout the summer, serving 1,500 people in one day when the need peaked.

Some came in from the suburbs to replenish their cupboards. This, after all, was a community still reeling from massive job losses brought on by the pandemic.

“You know it’s not enough, but you’re doing something,” says Pastor Khabeb, who made it through more than one sleepless night on adrenaline.

Shortly after a citywide curfew was enacted and the chaos was confined to daylight hours, she and two other members of the pastoral staff spent a night in the church.

“The next morning, we had Communion on the roof overlooking this charred chaos,” says Pastor Khabeb. “Something was breaking in our nation, and, as a Black woman with Black children, I just could not stay home at that time.”

If the status of race relations in 2020 needed to strike any closer to home, it happened when she and her husband tried to redeem a restaurant gift card a parishioner had given them (along with the receipt). The staff refused to accept it until the purchaser — who is white — arrived to vouch for its legitimacy.

“We think of racism as people wearing Klan garb and using the ‘N’ word,” says Pastor Khabeb, “but it’s the subtle, implicit bias.”

The year’s events took a cumulative toll on her. She took a leave of absence and began trauma therapy before returning to ministry in December.

A daunting rebuilding process lies ahead for the community, but Pastor Khabeb is warmed by the lingering memory of her congregation stepping up.

“When the community needed us,” she says, “our doors were propped open.”