Worship in the age of COVID-19

With limited seating in Benson Great Hall, Chapel and Vespers this fall look a little different.

By Rachel Blood

Students waited outside Benson Great Hall in a line winding down the CLC hallway, six feet apart, at 8 p.m. September 6. As they entered, a student worker at the entrance scanned each person’s cell phone screen. She was looking for their virtual ticket, something Vespers services at Bethel have never used before.

COVID-19 brought change not only to the academic aspect of Bethel, but also to worship. Chapel is now 30 minutes long instead of 45 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with an additional livestreaming option. This is partially because larger academic courses aiming to maintain social distancing now take place in spacious areas like the Great Hall and the Underground.

“I will always advocate for our community to come together to worship during chapel,” said campus pastor Laurel Bunker. “It is not the only way nor the only space where we can worship. However, taking the time to worship and hear the word as Christians helps us to grow in our faith, heal from brokenness, address challenging issues from a biblical perspective, and to be refreshed.”

Vespers now lasts 30 minutes instead of an hour. At the beginning of the semester, students were required to reserve tickets online for one of four identical Sunday night services. Following the September 13 Vespers services, the need for ticket reservations was eliminated along with the 7 p.m. service. 

Students worship at a Vespers service in Benson Great Hall while accommodating for social distancing. | Photo by Emma Gottschalk

Assistant Campus Pastor Jason Steffenhagen commented on the change, saying the staff wanted to eliminate barriers that could keep a student from attending Vespers. Due to available seats at services so far, attendance policy is now first come first serve.

Services remain free of charge and are open to Bethel students, faculty and staff at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. The 10 p.m. service will be livestreamed through Facebook. Vespers rehearsals occur in the Lakeside Center chapel, where social distancing is possible. Everyone in the band except for the vocalists wear masks during these rehearsals.

According to junior Vespers worship team leader Kayla Brunner, multiple Vespers leaders tested positive for COVID-19, causing the rest of the eight leaders to be quarantined due to exposure from training. But Vespers goes on.

Brunner said her favorite aspect of past Vespers has been the community and fellowship that is created during worship

“Hearing the collective voices of your peers is truly breathtaking, and stepping into the reason behind it is even better,” Brunner said. “It’s amazing to know that we are there to worship God together, whether it’s on stage or in the back row of the balcony. We are all here for one reason and with one goal in mind.” 

Bunker said that while being together for worship and God’s word is a joy and a blessing, she’s heard from many people who have found livestreaming to be beneficial. She’s encouraged if people are tuning in, no matter where they are.

Because of the pandemic, congregational singing is not permitted in the Great Hall for the time being.

“At Bethel we love to worship together,” Bunker said. “Last week, when we had the worship band up on Friday, even though we were not all singing out loud, it was beautiful. So happy to be back together. Preaching is different, but I still see faces in front of me, so I’m doing all right.”

A Vespers service is livestreamed for online viewers. | Photo by Will Jacott

Brunner said that despite the pandemic making it difficult to achieve that same feeling of community, COVID-19has given worship a new perspective.

“It’s still worship, just in a different light, and I think it is so important to recognize and practice all kinds of worship,” Brunner said. “We can still create a space with the intention of praising God together; it will just be more internal.” 

Bunker said she’s experienced the Lord in unique ways during the pandemic, including seeing increased ingenuity, creativity, and generosity in the Bethel community. In March, her pastoral team started posting devotions online for the community. Since then, they’ve looked for ways to use live and online opportunities to encourage the community. 

Matthew Runion, Associate Dean of Christian Formation, works closely with Bunker and Steffenhagen to prioritize Bethel’s Christian focus.

“In these difficult times of high anxiety, I believe God wants us to draw near – to each other and to God,” Runion said. “Ultimately, God wants us to know Him and rely on His loving abundance regardless of our circumstances. Communal worship is one of the places we can seek that reliance as well as small groups, personal prayer and sacrificial service to others.”

While Brunner anticipates difficulty leading socially distanced worship this year, her goal to reach everyone in the congregation hasn’t changed. 

“It’s a new challenge, especially with the livestream option that we now have. But I think we are all up for the challenge,” Brunner said. “We are all a part of United Ministries for the purpose of creating a space of worship and reflection, and that is what we plan to do for anyone who chooses to join in person or online.”

Bunker hopes worship will return to normal in the future. Steffenhagen has been working with a team monitoring directives and opportunities through the Minnesota Department of Health. Bunker suspects that Bethel will be back to worshipping soon. Until then, she encourages the campus to do everything possible to worship God.

Battling misinformation

Series on Police Reform incites hope of starting more conversations at Bethel University.

By Chloe Peter | Contributing Writer

Gloria Portillo sat in a classroom full of other history students, where the topic of the day was history of poverty and economics. As the only person of the color in the room, the professor continued to call on her for opinions. 

Normally, Portillo stayed quiet in class. This time, she didn’t have an option. She shifted in her seat as she explained her thoughts, the several sets of eyes on her becoming overwhelming. The more she expressed her opinions, the more she wanted to shrink into herself. 

One student brought up “building the wall.”  Another suggested that people of color who live in places where crime is high or are living in poverty should just go out and get better jobs or transfer to better schools. Portillo watched and listened as the rest of her class took sides and started to argue.

“You’re the one that looks different, so you’re expected to share,” said Portillo, a junior business major who identifies as Latinx.

Portillo is not the only student who feels uncomfortable with the racial tensions at Bethel – she has had many friends share similar experiences on Bethel’s campus and hopes that a guest speaker series on police reform in Minnesota which started Sept. 23 will help change that. 

“If Bethel wants to continue to diversify as they repeatedly promote in brochures, which has come across as tokenism, then as an institution it needs to keep moving forward,” Portillo said.

Gloria Portillo stands outside of the LSC. | Photo by Vanna Contreras

The virtual series, which held its final session Oct. 14, included four weekly talks. The first given by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The second given by a former police chief. The third, a Minneapolis city council member. And, lastly, state senator Jeff Hayden, who represents the district in which Floyd was killed. 

Andy Johnson, associate professor of psychology, came up with the idea for the series after realizing how much misinformation had been spread around police reform following Floyd’s death in May. Through the online sessions, his goal is to provide the Bethel community with a wide variety of opinions about police reform. 

“We wanted to teach students about working together as a team and gaining experience with controversial topics,” Johnson said.

Tanden Brekke, assistant director of community engagement at Bethel, helped put up boards over the windows and doors of Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church after he heard white supremacist groups would be targeting historic black churches in the area. Not long after, Brekke got a call from Johnson about the idea to create the series about police reform.

“This series will not fully unpack [issues with police and racial tensions], but it will get people more involved and more informed,” Brekke said.

Johnson and Brekke hoped that, by opening these talks up to the entire student body, it would open the door for new opportunities in discussing topics like police reform and race from a Christian point of view. 

“We, as a Christian school, don’t have the luxury of being isolated or pretending that we’re not connected to the rest of the world,” Johnson said.

While Bethel created a George Floyd Memorial scholarship for incoming students with Black or African American heritage in August, the announcement was met with opposition from alumni and community members who voiced concerns about Floyd’s criminal history in relation to Bethel.

Shortly after, President Ross Allen announced the Bethel University Institutional Action Plan for Diversity and Racial Healing, which is expected to be shared with the community soon.  

In Bethel’s Covenant for Life Together, one of the values listed includes “human life in all diversity and fullness, recognizing that women and men of all races, ages, and ability levels reflect the creative genius of our Maker.” Portillo hoped more conversations would be started along these lines and that more students will become involved after hearing about the series on police reform. 

“If Bethel wants to continue to uphold this specific part [of the covenant], then [it should] get the students talking about this, no matter how uncomfortable it gets or how distant the issue is from one’s [white] everyday life,” Portillo said. 

Afraid of needles

Bethel community members demonstrate the ideological divide surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and share their decisions and reasoning regarding the shot. 

By Nate Eisenmann | Reporter

With the recent rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, the debate has been fiery. As vaccines become available, increasing numbers of people are choosing to get vaccinated, while some are choosing not to. This debate is demonstrated at Bethel through students with opposing views.

Currently there are three different vaccines approved for emergency use by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Each of these vaccines underwent rigorous testing prior to approval. However, due to the fact that the pandemic began just over a year ago, long-term side effects have not been determined. 

Dr. Joy Doan, a professor of biological sciences at Bethel, explains just how remarkable the vaccine timeline has been.

“The fact that there were multiple vaccines available for use around the world a mere 10 months after the [World Health Organization] declared SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic is absolutely remarkable,” Doan said. 

She noted that, prior to COVID, the fastest vaccine to be developed was that for mumps, which took four years.

Doan, who holds a doctorate in medical microbiology and immunology, mentioned that even though the process occurred so quickly, standard procedures were still followed. She said that many factors played into the fast-paced testing and approval process, such as the financial support and large sample sizes used.

Although the standards vaccines are required to meet for FDA approval are high, some people still don’t trust the vaccine. 

A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center in February found that 30 percent of the American public did not plan on getting vaccinated while 69 percent plan on receiving or have already received the vaccine.

In a recent Clarion survey of 132 Bethel undergraduate students, 77 percent said that they had not yet been vaccinated while 23 percent said they had. Of those who had not yet been vaccinated, 23 percent said they do not plan on receiving the vaccine.

Bethel senior Ellie Hoyt is skeptical of the vaccine and does not plan on receiving it when it becomes available to her.

“[The vaccine] came out really, really fast,” Hoyt said. “Most vaccines go through years of clinical research. Do we know all of the side effects?”

Hoyt mentioned the role her religious convictions have played in her approach to the vaccine, saying “God created our bodies to heal themselves.”

Senior Ellie Hoyt does not plan on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. “We can all have our own opinion,” said Hoyt.

Hoyt also shared her belief in the importance of not listening to only one source for information regarding the vaccine. She talked about reading different articles, not just those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization, but finding other sources of information.

“[I read] articles that are by doctors that have been silenced,” Hoyt said, but she could not cite any specific articles or doctors. “I hope [people] right now will do the research for themselves, challenge the narrative for themselves and [not] believe everything they’re told.”

One of the main reasons cited by participants of The Clarion’s survey who did not plan on receiving the vaccine was that it had not been studied long enough to test for long-term side effects. Another reason was due to fears of infertility.

Doan acknowledges that there is misinformation regarding the vaccine, especially on the internet, but says that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe according to reliable sources such as the CDC, WHO and National Institute for Health.

“The broad consensus of the scientific community is that vaccines are safe and effective,” Doan said. “Yes, there are people who should not get certain vaccines, and every health care provider and scientist will acknowledge this fact, but there is very little serious risk to vaccination for an otherwise healthy individual.”

Hoyt notices that her beliefs and outspokenness against the COVID-19 vaccine have resulted in higher tensions in relationships, but this hasn’t swayed her point of view. 

“We can all have our own opinion,” Hoyt said. “At the end of the day we should all respect each other. Without conversation and dialogue, you can’t actually know more about others’ opinions.”

While there are groups of people at Bethel choosing to forego the COVID-19 vaccine, many students plan to get vaccinated or have already done so. 

Senior social work major Kenzie Hanenburg interns at the Glenwood Residence of Catholic Charities in St. Paul and received a vaccination for COVID-19 due to the nature of her internship. Hanenburg’s job entails working in close contact with older adults who have experienced homelessness and now live full time in the residence shelter. Many of these residents are men who are chronic alcoholics and therefore are at high risk for having severe complications if they were to contract the virus that causes COVID-19.

Although she had already contracted the virus in August 2020, Hanenburg said that she still wanted to get vaccinated to avoid future infection and to protect the health of those around her. 

“I know there’s more research to be done,” Hanenburg said. “But [I trust] the research that has been done.”

 Senior Kenzie Hanenburg stands outside Catholic Charities Glenwood residence where she works as an intern helping people who have experienced homelessness.

Even though she doesn’t face much backlash for her choice to get vaccinated and follow the CDC guidelines, Hanenburg says that there are friends and family members who don’t have the same opinions about the vaccine, so she emphasizes the importance of talking about each other’s perspectives.

“We’re all human, we’re all entitled to our beliefs,” Hanenburg said. “Conversations around it are really important.”

One specific group at Bethel that has early access to the COVID-19 vaccine is the nursing program. Dr. Diane Dahl, nursing department chair, explains that there are actually five separate nursing programs at Bethel and three of the five require clinical work, which involves practicing direct care to patients in hospitals in the Twin Cities. Through these clinicals, nursing students had the option to get the vaccine during the past few months. 

None of the clinical locations that Bethel works with require the COVID-19 vaccine at this point, but it is highly encouraged by both the hospitals and Bethel nursing department. Dahl said that she believes that in a year or two, the vaccine will be a requirement for nursing clinicals.

Although she didn’t have exact numbers of nursing students who had or had not been vaccinated, Dahl estimated that about 30 percent had chosen not to get vaccinated and noted that this is the trend among nursing programs of nearby colleges and universities.

Because the current vaccines are only available under emergency use authorization, Bethel cannot require that community members vaccinate. The director of COVID-19 operations, Kristi Moline, said that Bethel applied to host vaccination clinics on campus for the general public but was denied. However, Bethel continues to work with both the Minnesota Department of Health and the Ramsey County Public Health Center to find vaccination options for community members when they become available.

With the mistrust and conflicting opinions around the vaccine, Dahl said that the goal of the nursing department, like many health organizations focused on the vaccine, is to educate.

“We can inform, explain and educate. We want to make sure that [students] have the most current information about the vaccination. We have to respect people’s opinions,” Dahl said. “I know it’s hard. How you come at it and your frame of COVID is so different from mine. It makes sense that we view it so differently. We all come from different life circumstances. I think that’s important for all of us to remember.”

Takeout option increasing waste output on campus

New to-go containers from the DC fill trash and recycling bins alike across campus, concerning Creation Restoration members and environmental activists.

By Rachel Blood

Trash bins across Bethel University’s campus overflow daily with styrofoam food containers as more students opt for Monson Dining Center’s new takeout option. While the new dining system may be COVID-friendly, how is it impacting the environment? 

Trash and recycling bins overflow due to the large increase in waste on campus cause by COVID-19 food protocols. | Photo submitted by Arianna Richardson

Senior Elise Ogden, student co-leader of campus group Creation Restoration, worries about waste output in any community, but is particularly invested in Bethel’s. Creation Restoration believes stewardship of the earth is a commandment of respect, as mentioned in Psalm 24:1. Ogden is disheartened by the piles of recyclables thrown into trash bins by students across campus. 

The student club she leads started an initiative to unite all corners of campus to move toward reducing collective impact, and is offering a sustainability challenge this fall.

“As a facilities management worker, I placed four extra garbage cans in the BC during Welcome Week to ensure there wouldn’t be constant overflow,” said senior Creation Restoration co-leader Kylie Knutsen.

Seniors Elise Ogden and Kylie Knutsen, co-leaders of the Creation Restoration group at Bethel, dicuss different reuseable and decomposable options to use every day. | Photo by Emma Gottschalk

The DC’s to-go containers are made of styrofoam. Some styrofoam is made of expanded polystyrene foam, which clogs storm drains, litters beaches and streets, and harms animals. Polystyrene is Ogden’s largest environmental pet peeve. It also increases methane production in landfills, which has an ozone potency 20 times that of carbon dioxide. 

The National Toxicology Program lists styrene, which leaches from polystyrene and takes over 500 years to break down in a landfill, as reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen. Even after breaking down, it becomes microplastic. The DC’s plastic utensils are not recyclable in Arden Hills and take up to 1000 years to degrade. 

Bob Schuchardt, known to the student body as Sodexo Bob, holds a wildlife biology degree and manages dining services at Bethel.

This past summer, Sodexo worked as a team to determine how to open dining services with the looming presence of the coronavirus pandemic. Because dining center capacity was brought from 750 down to 250, a to-go program was a necessity. 

Currently, Minnesota state guidelines don’t allow reusable containers, mugs or water bottles in the DC or 3900 Grill. Schuchardt said the current to-go system is a quick fix allowing dining services to stay open, but he hopes to increase capacity to 350 and introduce more environmentally friendly to-go options as soon as it’s safe. 

Schuchardt noted that students are taking meals to-go often because they want to sit in groups outdoors. 

Bob Schuchardt, known as Sodexo Bob, explains the COVID-19 protocol that Bethel follows in order to promote student and faculty saftey. | Photo by Will Jacott

Ogden would like to see an alternative to-go container implemented in the DC similar to what the Grill uses for disposables. The bottom of these containers is compostable while the top is recyclable, although many students do not take care in properly disposing of these bins. 

The faculty sustainability board, a group of Bethel staff that meets regularly to discuss ways to increase campus sustainability, has made attempts to educate students on how to recycle the containers via staff volunteers stationed near trash bins in the BC. However, it is ultimately up to our community members to be mindful about their habits and actions. Some containers cannot be recycled despite having a recycle symbol. 

Ogden promotes reusable containers over compostable or recyclable, since reusables are cheaper and created for convenience. Ogden says it’s easy to develop habits that are just as convenient and cheap while reducing waste, but that “humanity is naturally resistant to change.”

Schuchardt said that it is up to the university whether a to-go option will remain available when state guidelines are lifted. Likely, he said, Bethel will revert to in-center dining in an effort to strengthen community. 

Sodexo is attempting to get better material for the environment than styrofoam, but it is very difficult.

“We are in a period of uncertainty right now, and what we want to do is keep Bethel open,” Schuchardt said. “I think that’s the main thing.”

Often forgotten, yet still fighting

Although emphasized as a part of America’s past, Indigenous Americans at Bethel are working towards increasing awareness and representation of their cultures.

By Soraya Keiser | News Reporter

Bridger Foster feels free when he dances in the annual powwow on the Red Cliff Reservation in Bayfield, WI. Eagle feathers in his hand, red paint on his face, bells on his legs and dressed in the regalia of a classically trained dancer, Foster follows the crowd clockwise around the gazebo as drummers beat out the rhythm. The beat of which represents the Anishinaabe people’s connection to the earth. Although hundreds of people come to watch and participate, Foster barely notices that. 

“It’s very euphoric and very just in the moment,” Foster said. “Like nothing else matters. I feel very connected to my ancestors and I feel very at home.”

Foster, a junior nursing student at Bethel, is a card-carrying member of the Métis tribal nation in Ontario. This means that he holds official tribal membership with the Métis. He also has Huron and Wyandotte heritage and grew up surrounded by the culture of the Anishinaabe Ojibwe people in Northern Wisconsin. Foster is the director of the First Nations subgroup of United Cultures of Bethel and helps plan events throughout the year highlighting Indigenous American culture. 

The de facto advisor for the First Nations subgroup of United Cultures of Bethel is Associate Professor of Communication Studies Dr. Scott Sochay. Originally from Northern Michigan, Sochay is a card-carrying member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. Unlike Foster, Sochay did not grow up surrounded by his native culture. Sochay’s father wanted to distance himself from the tribe after witnessing and experiencing discrimination because his mother, Sochay’s grandmother who was an Indigenous tribal member, married a white man. 

Dr. Scott Sochay flips through a book he keeps in his office created by his tribe as a means of proving their history and sovereignty to the federal government. | Photo by Emma Gottschalk

“I grew up knowing I was Indian but not really knowing a whole lot about what that meant,” Sochay said. 

It wasn’t until college when Sochay was really able to explore his heritage. Sochay received a scholarship to Michigan State University through the 1971 Native American Tuition Act because his grandmother was listed in the 1908 Michigan tribal census.

“Knowing that my native heritage was going to pay for my college education, I said, even though my dad really wasn’t all that interested in passing on his heritage, I want to learn what it means to be native now that it’s paying for my schooling.” Sochay said. “That really in a sense was the catalyst for me really starting to ask that question: What does it mean to be native?” 

From this point on, Sochay dove into the culture and history of his ancestors when he got involved with the North American Indian Student Organization at Michigan State. By listening to speakers, participating in campus powwows and reading up on his specific tribal history, Sochay soon realized that the way he saw the world was “more native than that of mainstream Western culture.”

For Sochay’s tribe, everything living is intertwined. Humans, animals, plants, spirits and natural resources.

“In Western culture we tend to separate faith from reason, religion from science, the natural from the supernatural,” Sochay said. “In native cultures there are no walls of separation or distinctions. Spiritually, Native Americans see the world as far more alive.”

Because of this, he sees all aspects of the natural world as sacred.

“I believe very much that God created everything we see and loves everything that he created. So, for us to go around destroying what he created is disrespectful to Him.”

– Bridger Foster, junior nursing student

Growing up in Northern Wisconsin, Foster and his tribal community hunted, fished and gathered only what was necessary for food and natural herbal remedies. With these practices he gained a deep respect for nature.

One way that Foster tries to emulate this respect is by living with zero waste. Back home, the Anishinaabe are very conscious of the resources they use. For example, if an animal is hunted and killed for food, the community uses every part of the animal, not just the parts they want to eat. 

Foster crochets old t-shirts and plastic bags into blankets and sleeping mats for the homeless. He is also working with Bethel grounds crew to set up a compost pile on campus. 

“I believe very much that God created everything we see and loves everything that he created,” Foster said. “So, for us to go around destroying what he created is disrespectful to Him.”

Protesting the pipeline

Respect for the earth has also led both Foster and Sochay to resist the replacement of the Line 3 Pipeline in Northern Minnesota.

Line 3 is a pipeline created by Enbridge, a multinational energy transportation company, to transport tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge has plans to replace the pipeline with a new route. Both the current and future pipelines run through tribal lands, which are sovereign nations and protected under treaties with the U.S. government. 

Design by Thanh Nguyen

Environmental groups, tribal nations and their allies have staged regular protests for six years in order to prevent Enbridge from building a new pipeline. 

“The Native American perspective is we are trying to protect our water because we consider it sacred,” Sochay said. 

Activists also resist the pipeline because if a spill occurs, it would negatively affect the ecosystems of Northern Minnesota. Polluted water would hurt the fishing and wild rice harvesting that is essential to the culture of Indigenous tribes across Minnesota. However, this pollution would affect more than just Minnesota as spills would flow into the Mississippi River headwaters and the Lake Superior watershed, depositing tar sands into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.

This is a nightmare for many Native Americans that has already started to play out. 30 years ago, Line 3 ruptured, spilling 1.7 million gallons of tar sands and oil into the water system.

“So, it’s happened before. It’s not like the oil companies can say, ‘Oh this’ll never happen,’” Sochay said. “It has. And it’s happened in a big way.” 

Line 3 is not unique in its controversy. Sochay’s tribe is dealing with a lawsuit of its own against the Line 5 pipeline in Michigan, and Foster’s family has been involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests throughout the past few years. 

Sochay hopes that the treaties created years ago with many tribes across the United States will be upheld and that pipeline construction will stop.

“Native tribes that are recognized by the federal government are considered sovereign nations. You don’t enter into a treaty with anyone other than a sovereign nation,” Sochay said. “And so, when we don’t want pipelines through our tribal lands or potentially impacting the waters that we use to fish and grow wild rice, we are asserting our sovereignty.”

Joining the discussion

Foster hopes to better educate the Bethel community not only on the effects of a new pipeline, but about Indigenous cultures as a whole. He is talking with Bethel professors about how to accurately represent Indigenous Americans as not just a thing of the past. Not just as people only mentioned in chapters on colonialism in American history textbooks. According to the United States Census Bureau there are more than 2.9 million Indigenous people living in America to this day. Foster is also working on restructuring the Bethel Covenant for Life Together so that it is more culturally inclusive.

“We often feel like we are just left out of the discussion.”

– Dr. Scott Sochay, Communication Studies professor

These efforts are to create a closer Indigenous American community on campus prove difficult because of the lack of students who identify as coming from an Indigenous background. Foster is one of four students he knows of that are Indigenous American, and Sochay is the only Indigenous American faculty member that Bethel has ever employed.

“Because there has never been in a sense what you would call a critical mass of native students here on campus, it’s very difficult to help develop a native community,” Sochay said. “As a Bethel faculty member, I often feel isolated at times because whenever anything here on campus happens that involves Native American culture in some way, shape or form, I know I am going to be called on whether I want to be or not. And sometimes that can be a little bit tiring or weary.” 

A hair piece handmade by Bridger Foster. He explains the importance of beading in his culture, stating that each bead is like a prayer. | Photo by Emma Gottschalk

Although both Foster and Sochay wish that Bethel would do more regarding Indigenous American representation, they realize that Bethel isn’t always the one to blame. 

“It’s not a Bethel issue,” Sochay said. “It’s a larger cultural issue.”

He wishes that Indigenous American culture and rights were less overlooked and forgotten. 

“As Native Americans we tend to get tired of issues related to diversity and civil rights [being] almost always framed exclusively in a Black-White context,” Sochay said. “We often feel like we are just left out of the discussion.”

Looking back, stepping forward

Finding comfort and success playing Bethel football and starting a shoe-selling business, Bronson Pe’a dreams of living a life far from the tragedy, violence and homelessness that marked his childhood.

By Emma Eidsvoog | Lifestyle Editor

Sophomore Bronson Pe’a holds a pair of red, black and white Air Jordans in his hands, what he hopes is a ticket out of the life he grew up with.

Pe’a grew up in the Logan Heights neighborhood in San Diego, Calif. where his mother struggled to keep up with house payments. Pe’a, his mother and three siblings grew up moving from home to home, sometimes using a car for shelter. Pe’a never knew his dad. 

He remembers receiving an Xbox for his 14th birthday, but otherwise didn’t expect much with so little money to be spent.

“[San Diego] is pretty amazing, aside from the struggles. It’s always sunny,” Pe’a said.

After living in a grey Volvo for six months, his mother, Lehua, decided to stay at a homeless shelter for a night where they’d be given a cot to sleep on and a hot meal. During this stay, Pe’a remembers eating half a bag of Cheez-Its and laying down on a bed for the first time in months. When he awoke, a man near his cot was holding the bag of crackers. Pe’a decided then that he would never be in a position in life to be that desperate. He would work for a financially stable life.

“From that point on, I knew I couldn’t be homeless,” Pe’a said. “I knew I had to get out of there; to figure out a way to make my family’s life better.”

For him, that meant focusing on school, starting football and working at fast-food restaurants while growing up. These things would lead him away from the neighborhood where he witnessed the death of his friend.

At 7 years old, Pe’a walked to school with his friend, the same route he took every day. On a cloudy Tuesday in Logan Heights, a black car, the kind that makes you tense up as it drives by, pulled up to the curb. A man got out of the car, pulled out a gun and shot Pe’a’s friend. 

As quickly as he came, the man hopped back in the car and drove away, never to be found. He left Pe’a be. 

“I was kinda stuck,” Pe’a said. “I didn’t know what to do initially. I just ran.”

He ran home to tell someone, then went to school and on with his day. Looking back, he doesn’t know how he did that.

“My friend and I grew up in the same area but he partook in some of the things I didn’t partake in, so that was the difference,” Pe’a said.

Such violence wasn’t a rare occurrence where he grew up. Even today, Pe’a has four friends with 20-plus year prison sentences and another friend who was shot a few weeks ago in the neighborhood he grew up in. Pe’a’s loss has followed him to Bethel, but he knows college is where he needs to be to have the stability he dreams of.

Family found far from home

At 16, Pe’a made a big move. After finding out his mother had missed four months of house payments, he moved to Washington state to live with his sister and brother-in-law, who were financially stable. 

That’s when he played football for Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash. The coaches threw him in, realizing he played for a highly-ranked team in California. But Pe’a had barely played back home. His coaches weren’t easy on him, but he stuck with it. 

“We want to be able to do better for ourselves so we’re able to support our families. We want to make sure we’re an influence in our childrens’ lives. We want the things we didn’t, in a sense, have growing up.”

– Jaydon McMillon

Pe’a met Jaydon McMillon, now a freshman business major at Bethel, in the weight room at Lakes High School. They were both on the football team and instantly got along. The two spent everyday together between class, football and playing Madden at each other’s houses. In November of his senior year, Pe’a moved into the two-bedroom apartment McMillon’s family lived in.

“They accepted me as their own and I never had that before,” Pe’a said. “When [home life] was more stable, school went a lot better and there was a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders.”

McMillon heard Pe’a’s story and could somewhat empathize with having an absent father – his father is in the military and was stationed during much of his high school career. 

“We were able to talk through it and use it as momentum,” McMillon said. “We want to be able to do better for ourselves so we’re able to support our families. We want to make sure we’re an influence in our childrens’ lives. We want the things we didn’t, in a sense, have growing up.”

A future he can rely on

As a sophomore marketing and human resources major, Pe’a isn’t sure what he wants to do after graduating. All he knows is school and perhaps a shoe business will lead him to the life he wants.

“Until I was 12 and really understood what jobs were like, I wanted school to take me to be a trash truck driver,” Pe’a said.

He started making money in seventh grade when his mother bought him Jordan Retro Maroon 6’s that he resold to people who were willing to spend $1000 on a pair of shoes. Once he started working at KFC, he bought more and more shoes and has now sold about 350 pairs. He uses his Instagram page, Schoolboy Kickz, to market his shoe finds. 

Pe’a carries a football at Bethel’s outdoor stadium. He excitedly anticipates playing on this field during the spring football season, COVID-19 permitting. | Photo by Emma Gottschalk

Between business classes, Pe’a keeps busy with shoe selling, 6 a.m. football practices, trips to thrift stores and three other jobs. He still makes time for Xbox with McMillon after finishing statistics homework.

When McMillon started looking at colleges, Pe’a told him to consider Bethel. After he stayed with Pe’a during a visit, McMillon knew that Bethel was for him. The Lakes High graduate started Bethel this fall and said Pe’a makes being far from home easier.

Now they’re on the same team again. This fall, the football team scrimmaged. Pe’a wore a white jersey; McMillon wore Navy. 

“We always talk, ‘We can’t go back to that.’ Whenever we touch the field, we’re like, ‘Hey, remember why we do what we do,’” McMillon said.

Football has made it easier for Pe’a to be far from familiarity. The defensive line and special teams coach A.J. Parnell became a father figure to Pe’a, bringing him home to see what a healthy home life could look like. He also shows Pe’a support by going with him to doctor’s appointments. 

“I’m kinda leading the way now, figuring it out for myself while they’re watching and seeing what I’m doing.”

– Bronson Pe’a

“He wanted me to experience life raising a solid family in a nice neighborhood,” Pe’a said.

For now, Pe’a is okay with being 1,990 miles away – but he thinks about moving back to San Diego where the temperature doesn’t dip below zero. Although his relationship with his mother is distant, he’s hopeful it will get better. He calls once a month to update her on how school is going. She also tells him about school, as she attends a community college to work in business administration.

“Communication is getting better and I can understand things as I get older,” he said. 

As an older brother, Pe’a’s motivation partly stems from the desire to be a positive example for his siblings. 

“Now that I see them following in my footsteps, there’s pressure to keep going because they only have me as an example. I’m kinda leading the way now, figuring it out for myself while they’re watching and seeing what I’m doing.”

Pe’a holds his future in his hands. The sneakers are just a symbol of the life he wants, a life where he doesn’t need to worry about where he’s going to lay his head at night.

‘Something has to change’

The Bethel community responds to the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright and the verdict of Derek Chauvin’s trial in collective dialogue and lament.

By Rachel Blood and Nate Eisenmann

Father, son and brother Daunte Wright was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter April 11, just 10 miles from where Derek Chauvin sat on trial for the murder of George Floyd.

President Ross Allen addressed the tragic event in a Bethel community email April 13.

“Last Sunday’s police shooting of Daunte Wright—in the midst of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the tragedies that took place in Atlanta and Colorado, and so many other instances of violence—weighs heavily on the entire Bethel community,” he wrote. “We grieve for the friends and families of Daunte Wright and so many other individuals of color who face an increased risk of violence in our country.”

A Minneapolis jury convicted Chauvin on all charges in the death of Floyd April 20.

“While it cannot restore the life that was lost, this verdict is an important step toward the justice and reconciliation that we, as Christ-followers, seek,” Allen said.

Memorial created for Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. | Photo by Hannah Hobus

Senior social work student Roland Osagiede grew up in Brooklyn Center. He was there last week for the protests happening in front of the police stations, directly across the street from where he attended high school. 

Osagiede, who found out about Wright’s death via a phone call from his brother, did not personally know Wright, but knows a few people who did. 

“The fact that this happened in my hometown is honestly very scary,” he said. “I have a lot of sadness, anger and fear in my heart. I easily could have been Daunte Wright, which is what is most scary. Daunte Wright could have been any one of my family members.”

Each day, Osagiede’s mother wakes up hoping not to see one of her sons dying on the news. 

“If I’m being honest, I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood, and I’m sure many BIPOC families feel the same way,” Osagiede said. “I’m afraid to call the police for help because of what could happen. There is a huge disconnect between the police and people of color.”

Many of the police officers in Brooklyn Center live outside of the city, making it difficult for them to know and serve the community properly. Wright’s death lessened Osagiede’s trust in the Brooklyn Center Police even more. 

Osagiede sees Wright’s death as a tragic accident that could and should have been prevented by Potter’s years of training and service. In similar situations with white people, he said, there seems to be more room for de escalation. He attributes the lack of deescalation to one thing: fear. 

“I believe the officer made this mistake because she was nervous,” he said. “Why do you think she was nervous? I believe it’s because of the color of Daunte’s skin. I definitely understand that police officers have families that they want to make it home to every night, but something has to change.”

As members of the Bethel community come to terms with and process the reality of racism, Allen encourages all to engage in conversation with one another: RAs, RDs, student life staff, professors, friends or the Counseling or Christian Formation and Church Relations Offices. “My door—and my inbox—is always open,” Allen wrote.

On April 21 at 9 p.m., just under 30 hours after the Chauvin verdict, students filed into the Underground for a “Liturgy of Lament,” a student-organized event focused on providing a space for attendees to express their feelings concerning the trial verdict and the death of Daunte Wright. 

Senior Elizabeth Szilagyi, in collaboration with Adjunct Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies Dale Durie, planned the liturgy, a customary practice in which Christians participate in a variety of kinds of worship such as prayer, scripture reading and reflection. 

This particular liturgy involved the repetition of a reading from chapter five of the book of Amos; this passage is one of lament for the lack of social justice. 

“I’ve been doing this for years and years. But I’ve never used a pure lament passage for [a liturgy],” Durie said.

Gus Tiffer speaks at the Liturgy of Lament event in the Underground on Wednesday, April 21. | Photo by Ally O’Neil

Durie explained the flow of the liturgy in four steps. There would be a reading of the chosen passages, followed by a time for reflection on particular words and phrases that stood out to the participants. Next there was a time for writing down a prayer—any prayer that came to mind. Finally, there was a period of rest and for processing. 

“Do not be a human doing, but a human being,” Durie said, in regards to the fourth step of the liturgy. He stressed the importance of staying focused on God and offering up any thoughts that came to mind. “There is permission to be angry…to be fully human in this moment,” he said.

For many students, the fourth part of the liturgy—rest and contemplation—was the most meaningful.

“I enjoyed the few minutes to just be,” sophomore Nancy Alquicira said. 

Whatever emotion students felt throughout the night, Durie wanted to ensure that they would feel comfortable in that moment to work through what they were feeling. 

“We’re all processing different things,” Durie said, “for some it’s [the pandemic], others it’s the trial or Daunte Wright. Hopefully it was an experience where God was meeting them where they were at.”

Praying with his eyes open

After being forgiven by the man he shot, Pastor Danny Givens transformed his life into one of activism and spiritual leadership.

By Soraya Keiser

Pastor Danny Givens was baptized in prison. 

He had been in prison for six years already when he decided he needed to start going back to church.

“I really just reached the end of myself,” Givens said. “I didn’t care what it was, I just needed to go somewhere and hear some word. You know, I needed to hear some hope.”

Six months into his churchgoing, Givens heard a message on Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Givens couldn’t believe that God was thinking about him. A man who started selling drugs at the age of 10. A gang leader. Someone who had shot an off-duty police officer in the stomach.

Givens was incarcerated for attempted armed robbery of a Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, a popular Rondo neighborhood hangout in St. Paul, when he was 19. He exchanged fire with off-duty Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy Art Blakely, a pillar in the Rondo community. Blakely was shot once in the stomach. Givens was shot twice. 

After his surgery, the first thing Blakely said was “How is the young man?” 

Blakely lived only a few blocks from Givens and his family, so immediately after being discharged from the hospital, he went to Givens’ mom’s house to see how she was holding up.

“This is our community. This is Rondo,” Givens said. “We lean into tension.”

Blakely didn’t want 19-year-old Givens to be stuck in prison for the majority of his life. Unbeknownst to Givens, Blakely wrote to the judge to get him out early. He wanted to give Givens a second chance. Instead of having to serve up to 60 years, Givens ended up serving 12.

Givens, now 43, had grown up in the church, attending regularly with his grandparents. When he was nine years old, Givens’ grandmother told him he was going to be a preacher when grew up. She said she just knew it. Yet Givens ran from this life, getting involved in the drug-filled violence that soon became normal to him. It wasn’t until after those first six years in prison that Givens noticed God working in his life.

Sitting in the very back of that Saturday service on Jeremiah, it finally clicked for Givens. The preacher held an altar call, saying everyone in the congregation was saved if they wanted to be. 

“I was almost kind of stunned or numb, and the Holy Spirit shook my head no,” Givens said. 

The preacher then called out to him saying, “Young brother in the back, you ain’t saved?”

The Holy Spirit shook his head even harder. That was when Givens was invited to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. He walked up to the front of the church and bowed his head in prayer to start, but the preacher tilted his chin up. 

“Lift your head up, young man, and open your eyes. Anything that God is going to do for you, he is going to do for you with your eyes wide open,” Givens recalls the man saying.

And the Baptism took place. 

“God touched me then,” Givens said. “I received my call.” 

After the ceremony, he was told to leave and tell people that God changed his life. Immediately the next day, Givens was in the prison yard leading Bible study and prayer groups. 

Four months later, Givens preached his first official sermon. He’s been preaching ever since.

Although he was not officially ordained until being released from prison in 2008, Givens already knew he wanted to take his faith further, so he enrolled in Bethel’s Adult Undergraduate Christian Ministries program.

“I was going to school to be an informed believer,” Givens said.

The program introduced Givens to his mentor and friend, Dr. Gary Stratton. As the director of the Christian Ministries program at the time, Stratton held interviews with all incoming students. 

After their first interaction, Stratton knew that Givens was going to be a compelling asset to the program.

“His insight into human nature because of his life experiences was just kind of breathtaking,” Stratton said. 

Through Bethel’s Christian Ministries program and into his creation of Above Every Name Ministries, a congregation that, according to its website, prides itself on being a “church for the people.” Givens has not been afraid to confront hurt within his community and form close relationships.

Above Every Name has become a pillar within the Rondo community and the greater Twin Cities area. 

“I think he is one of the most important alumnus spokespeople for Bethel,” Stratton said. “Just how passionate and articulate he is in terms of articulating Bethel’s values of being both a peacemaker and a justice-bringer. He is doing it.”

In 2010, two years after being released from prison, Givens was walking near his mother’s house when a truck stopped in the street. Blakely’s truck. He rolled down the window and asked Givens, “And your name is, young man?”

Givens responded. Blakely put his truck in park. And the next thing Givens knew, he was enveloped in a hug.

“I love you. I forgive you. I am so proud of you,” Blakely said to Givens. 

This love that Blakely shared has stayed with Givens through his ministry.

“When I received my calling, the charge that I got from God was to be to others what nobody has been to you,” Givens said. “And Chief Art Blakely was to me what nobody had been before.” 

Givens commends Blakely for his continued service to the Rondo community and hopes to mirror that with Above Every Name.

“[Blakely] was a man in our community that has done great work as a sheriff but also as a man. As a father. As a leader,” Givens said. “And so I continue to carry on that legacy of keeping my heart open and that ministry of presence.”

As the clergy liaison to the #BlackLivesMatterMpls movement, Givens leads prayer vigils, provides spiritual counsel and does interfaith work with other religious groups who are working towards equality. 

Givens has received pushback for the support he has given this movement as well as that of the LGBTQ+ community, but he doesn’t regret it.

“I’m out here with God’s children,” Givens said. “Love is my gospel, and justice is my religion.”

‘Let’s Make Stuff’

Raspberry Monday 2021

By Makenzi Johnson

The 49th annual juried student art exhibit, “Raspberry Monday,” was on display in the Johnson Gallery from March 29 to April 20. Art and design students submitted their artwork, varying from paintings, sculptures, digital media, photography and more, to a panel that decided which pieces will be on display. Various awards, including the Raspberry Monday Award and others, are given out to students as well. The art exhibit is an opportunity for students to display their art for the public, jurors, staff and faculty, students and guests. The Clarion asked some of the “Raspberry Monday” participants to tell us about their pieces and the inspiration behind them – here’s what they have to say:

Malakai Holloway 

“Breathe”

Painted print with embroidery 

“This was made a couple days after George Floyd’s murder. A few days after I had some time to grieve and process it, I knew I wanted to make some art about it. I titled it “Breathe” because no doubt, that’s a direct correlation to the case, to the murder. But there’s something so empowering about [the woman in the painting]. She’s breathing; she’s free. I made this piece because African Americans, we have barely any time to breathe. People are always looking at us differently, looking at our skin color before looking at us as a person. She is the ultimate ‘I’m breathing; I’m free; I don’t have a care in the world.’ Her head is up; she’s elevated. It’s a reminder that everyone needs to breathe every once and a while because we’re all holding our breath.”

Annah Chriske

“Transverse CT of Abdomen”

Painted print

“I took this from a CT scan, basically if you were getting cut like a transverse. I’m a biology and an art major… Here’s just some fun organs, your spine, your liver, your two kidneys, a bunch of your hollow digestive organs, and then your pancreas… I love anatomy and human physiology, how the body works altogether, how we have this amazing system and how it’s so intricate. It’s just so crazy that we can run and do stuff. I wanted to make something that was maybe kind of gross, or like your inside organs are gross, but turn it into something beautiful.”

Amy J Harr

“Postcard from another home”

Photos 

“I made these right after I got home – I had been living in Italy for two months studying abroad, and then I got kicked out of the country…I went through the trauma and the stress of leaving due to the pandemic, twice, and I got home and had all of these pictures and all of these experiences and I didn’t know how to deal with them… A lot of it was an expression of what I was losing, the stuff that I was remembering and the experiences I had lost that I never got to experience… When I was [in Italy] I did not like it there; I hated it because I felt like I wasn’t where I needed to be, and then at the end, right when I got home, I felt like I wanted to stay there longer because it was challenging and I liked that.”

Hannah Hobus

“Take notes”

Digital art print and watercolor

“I was inspired by my own culture – I’m half-Korean, half-white, so that was super big here. It was really heavy on me with the pandemic and everything going on that I felt like I had to express it, which was super cool… I was thinking of the stuff happening in Minnesota, especially with George Floyd, and the solidarity between people. I think it’s so cool that we have this shared experience, yet with so many different cultures and backgrounds. It’s amazing how people are coming together despite a pandemic.”

Halle Ritgers

“A slow understanding”

Painted print 

“I had been working on another series that I was starting to get fed up and annoyed with, so this was just a free piece I decided to do on my own time, not really thinking too much about what I’m doing in other classes or other series… It’s not necessarily a sad, somber piece, but I have been reflecting a lot on lament and understanding pain and those sorts of things in your life and how those things can still create beauty in your life… I think the color tones reflect the things I was feeling at the time.”

Josh Vana

“Wolf”

Sculpture 

“What really drives me as an artist is pushing past my own limits. So I don’t do a project if I think it will be easy; I do it because I think it’s not going to work. As a Christian artist, if I can complete the dream on my own, it’s like, ‘Oh I can take a step, but if I need God to complete the task it’s no longer me that completes the things; I can give homage to someone else.’”

Ava Raisanen

“Corn Dog”

Painted print

“I’m really interested in nature and animals; I also like to bring my humor into my art. I had this idea many years before, but never did anything about it. I got this big canvas from my pastor who told me to do something with it, so I just played around and had fun with it… It’s really fun to see how people react to this painting, whether I know them or not – it’s cool to hear what they have to say about it.”

Brandon Barnaal

“Doors, Agra, India” 

Digital art print 

“This is from my India trip during J-term. I went with Textura, and basically there was this endless corridor that I approached. It really captivated me, this idea of not being able to go beyond the group and explore what was present because we had to stay together. But there was something beyond really calling me; I wanted to pursue it. Specifically with this piece, I gave this allure of a rainbow and a kind of monochrome background to draw you into what is beyond the front door. I wanted to distort this front door because I only had a vision of what was in the front; I was never able to depict what is behind, what is beyond. That is what this drives from, my own exploration of this space that I physically couldn’t enter.”

Abrianna Marsh

“Sanctuary”

Bronze casting sculpture 

“I was drawn to the idea of deer being these harmless, defenseless animals that kind of turn to the woods for protection. Growing up and watching the deer in our yard… we had an albino doe in our area (Frederick, Wisconsin) for maybe 20 years or something, and my mom was telling me about this one time when my older sisters were younger and one of them started crying. The deer was in the yard and kind of stood there and looked concerned almost, like, ‘Oh, is everything okay?’ I feel like [deers] are these ethereal beings.”

Maddie Antikainen

“Twisted momentum”

Wood 

“This piece was originally done for one of my classes; it was about implied motion. I thought this was a good way to resemble that, even though it seems like progress isn’t always happening in our lives, that something is always happening and you can see it through the little, intricate pieces when the whole piece comes together.”

Gissele Oliviera

“Youthful tears”

Sculpture 

“I wanted to focus on people’s insecurities and see them on display. I had a girl in my class come up to me about another art piece I am working on currently, and she goes, ‘I walked in and I saw your piece and thought, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a human body. But I had to take a step back, and I looked at it and thought that it’s so normal to me because that’s what I see in the mirror, but I don’t see it represented in art.’ She was almost in tears; I was like, ‘Oh my gosh; that is so cool,’ because that’s what I want – I want people to be like, ‘That looks like me,’ but it’s being appreciated as a work of art instead of just a human body.”

Eleanor Carlson

“On the seventh day”

Painted print 

“This was a meditation on the Sabbath… every seventh circle is complete. I used India ink and a stencil. You’re starting a gesture; it’s going a little more, a little more, a little more, but it’s never complete or whole until the seventh day, the seventh circle. It’s a meditation really, pretty minimalistic in that regard. Kind of just, ‘Okay, what does it mean to go through my week? I’m building on it; I’m working; I’m also being spent more. Yet on the seventh day, that’s when I can be complete and whole and rest.”

Aimee Kuiper

“Brown eyes poetry series” 

Photos and Poetry 

“A lot of these photos come from a really crazy part of my life, so it was really good to look back on it and see it as positive despite the crazy and weird… [The poems] are all part of a series I started, “The Brown Eyes Poetry Series,” in reaction to how there are so many stories and poems of blue-eyed people or green-eyed people. I really, really wanted green eyes as a kid, and so those first couple years at Bethel I was like, ‘No; my eyes are so cool and I should write poetry about them and about other people’s eyes because it’s so amazing.’”

Bethel responds to mask mandate lift

Community encouraged to continue face-covering protocols until commencement weekend.

By Rachel Blood | News Editor

Governor Tim Walz lifted the Minnesota mask mandate today after the Center of Disease Control revealed plans to stop requiring face coverings in public indoor spaces.

Bethel encourages community members to continue to wear face coverings indoors until commencement weekend ends May 23. This stems from an attempt to respect those who have not yet been vaccinated or remain in a group classified as medically vulnerable.

If a Bethel community is asked to wear a face covering indoors on campus, Director of COVID-19 Operations Kristi Moline asks that the request be honored.

Wellness Center Director Rick Meyer announced that masks, while recommended, will be option in the WLC for the remainder of the school year. Pods and the reservation system through the WLC app will continue.

“As we look forward to commencement next weekend, we are grateful and proud of the work we’ve done as a community to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campus,” Moline said. “These announcements have no impact on our decision to not require vaccinations in the fall. We will continue to monitor the guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health and make decisions for Bethel that best balance the student experience while maintaining health and safety for the entire Bethel community.”