Sankofa 2017: Journeying Back, Looking Forward

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Pastors’ Sankofa Journey to Harmony Reflections:


Dr. Martin Luther King said, “You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream.”

Nearly 50 years after Dr. King’s assassination, 30 Twin Cities pastors kept Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive through Sankofa: Journey to Harmony. Sankofa is a Ghanaian phrase that translates as “go back and get it.” Our Journey to Harmony encouraged participants to go back and face our country’s roots in order to move forward. [pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream.[/pullquote]

In February, African American and white ministry leaders journeyed together, touring powerful Civil Rights sites across Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama for four emotionally grueling days. Six participants wrote up their reflections sharing how this experience humbled them, lead to greater understanding, humiliated them, yet left them with a hope for the future of the Church in the Twin Cities. To read these insights and for a full recap of the Journey to Harmony, click here.

At Transform Minnesota, our Coming Together initiative aims to catalyze relationships between evangelical leaders to cross racial barriers and overcome disparities. We want to pursue racial harmony as we strive to come together in the Kingdom of God.

Following our inaugural Sankofa: Journey to Harmony, we are inspired, filled with hope and continuing to look forward.



Pastor Ryan Fair, from New Hope Church went on the Journey to Harmony with his Senior Pastor Matthew St. John. And although these men come from different perspectives as a black man and a white man, they both left the journey inspired by the heroes of the Civil Rights movement and by the strong, leading voice of the Church.

“Thinking about the giants in history that went before me, that sacrificed themselves so that we could have the liberties and freedoms that we have now. So, although I feel heavy, I’m also rejoicing because they did that for me, and for my children, and for generations to come,” said Pastor Fair. [pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]Although I feel heavy, I’m also rejoicing…[/pullquote]

“Something that grieves me is that in many respects, the Church has seen its voice diminish over the past two or three decades. And yet, I believe with all of my being that the only way for there to be a repairment of relationships around our nation, is for the Church to step up again and to assert its voice,” said Pastor Matthew St. John.

These ministry partners found they aren’t only inspired by the past, they are inspired to be of service to God in the work of reconciliation.

“To be able to return to our church family and to the whole Minneapolis community, and do my part, helping the Church do what it can to help us be ministers of reconciliation amongst all of us,” said Pastor St. John.

“I just want to take what I’ve learned and bring it back to help guide my church family through the racial reconciliation process. Knowing it took a long time to get to where we are, and it’s going to take a long time to get to where we want to go,” said Pastor Fair.

We are inspired by the many pastors who went back to their congregations, following the journey, and spoke challenging messages of pain, truth, and hope.



Following our four-day journey, a deep sense of unity and hope emerged within the group of 30 pastors. 

“The power of these congregations is going to significantly impact the entire Minnesota area. There is an energy among us, a dynamic that I think is really going to change the dynamic of the Christian movement in Minnesota,” said Bishop Richard Howell Jr., of Shiloh Temple International Ministries.

[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]…going to change the dynamic of the Christian movement in Minnesota.[/pullquote]We put our hope in Christ’s unifying presence when two or more of His children are gathered in His name.

“I am so hopeful, because I know these brothers and sisters now, and it’s going to be so very helpful for what Jesus is seeking to do in the Twin Cities because we know one another, and we have experience in sharing time together,” said Pastor John Jacobi, of Crosstown Covenant Church.

“I hope out of this trip, bonds are made. I hope out of this trip there will be some people who may push congregations, not just in the white church, but in the black church, knowing there’s racism both ways,” said Pastor Celester Webb, of United Church of God in Christ.

“I hope I can be an influencer for good and for God in this same way to my friends and connections. I hope from the connections I’ve made on this trip that we will formulate something to do together to bring black and white together,” said Pastor Richard Payne, of Wooddale Church.

Our desire is to proclaim hope and unity. We are hopeful that working together as the body of Christ can have a greater impact on our community, as we work to overcome disparities, misconceptions and inequality, and to promote the Gospel truths of reconciliation and justice.


Looking forward

With inspiration and hope, we look forward. We want to continue to live out Dr. King’s dream. 

“We are definitely thinking in terms of what do we do now, what’s the next stop. And yet, we cannot forget our history. We need to continue to put this history in front of us, not behind us, to understand what a better future we can have, as a result of what happened yesterday,” said Bishop Richard Howell. [pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]We need to continue to put this history in front of us.[/pullquote] “I think we can learn some great models of yesterday’s history, to give us some kind of impetus and motivation to continue to pursue in the future.”

The Sankofa: Journey to Harmony group of pastors is committed to meeting and praying together regularly, as we seek to find how God’s Spirit is stirring and prompting us to act.

“I think this trip has given us more clarity on our role, so that we will know when to speak up and when we need to take action. This trip has been more helpful in seeing what the Church can do for such a time as this,” said Bishop Richard Howell. “You can rest assured, it’s not just going to be rhetoric and discussion only, and it’s going to take some decisive action.”

This journey did not end when airplane wheels hit the runway; it only just gets real. We believe relationships are the key to repairment, and we will continue to strive to foster these relationships as we look ahead.

“I want so much for us to be in the Cities not as strangers who are pastors scattered around the communities. But as friends who will live together and work together to speak harmony and shalom into our communities,” said Pastor Matthew St. John.

In order to gain the perspective needed to look forward, we journeyed back to our country’s shameful history of slavery, racial terrorism through lynching, Jim Crow laws, and oppressive justice systems. It has become all too clear that it is the Gospel that reconciles people. So as we look ahead, we continue to dream of God’s Kingdom revealed in Revelation 7: “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”