Racial Justice Ministry Team

Trinity’s Racial Justice Ministry Team

Taking steps individually and as a faith community towards understanding, confronting and dismantling the racial bias and systemic racism that is around us, among us, and within us. This team was formed in the fall of 2020 and is committed to both education and action. If you have a heart for this work and are interested in joining our team, please contact Rachel Schmeltzer.

Below is a presentation summary of our team’s work from April 2023, as presented to the Saint Paul Area Synod’s Advocates for Racial Equity (ARE) work group.
Trinity’s Racial Justice Ministry Team Presentation>>


Former Stillwater teacher and coach Will Antell was honored on July 18 with the Stillwater Human Rights Award, given annually to recognize those in the city who work to “build an environment that promotes fair and equal treatment for everyone.” A reception in Antell’s honor followed at the Lowell Inn Event Center hosted by Trinity’s Racial Justice Ministry Team, with special thanks to team member Ann Wolff.

Widely regarded as an authority on Indian education and desegregation, Antell, a member of the White Earth Band of Anishinaabe Indians, helped guide policy for American Indian education at the state and federal levels.

Gov. Walz declared July 18 as Dr. Will Antell Day in Minnesota. Read the letter from Patina Park, Executive Director of Tribal Affairs, Office of Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan.

Both the award presentation and the program are available to watch on local cable VAC-TV channel 15 on Thursdays at 1:05 p.m. and Sundays at 5:10 p.m. A DVD is also available for purchase at https://www.vactv.org/store.

View event flyer>>

In March 2022 Trinity’s Racial Justice Ministry Team was awarded a $15,000 Harvest Grant by the Saint Paul Area Synod (SPAS). The grant is being used to bring greater awareness through: education on past and present Native culture and experiences; stories of the Native Peoples who lived on this land long before us; Indigenous land acknowledgement; and inspiration for action and relationship-building as we go.

Read the full grant proposal>>

Our team has finished phase one of the proposal funded by our grant, the Education Series entitled: Listen, Understand, Connect. The Education Series included two main components: Teaching sessions and a traveling exhibit.

We hired Vance Blackfox to teach three class sessions at Trinity Lutheran Church. Vance is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Indigenous theologian, founder and director of Other+Wise, and serving as the Director of Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations for the ELCA. Vance presented three classes that he developed: The Blanket Exercise, Indigenous Thought & Theology and Indian 101. These sessions were held on Oct. 2, 4, and 5, 2022. The classes were attended by 255 individuals, including Trinity members and confirmation youth, other local church members and confirmation youth, and people from the broader community. Events lasted one to two hours with additional time for reflection and questions, led by Vance. Additionally, Vance was our guest preacher at both our worship services on Oct. 2. Worship was attended by 245 people.

We are especially grateful that we were able to offer the education series at no cost to participants as provided by the generous grant from our Saint Paul Area Synod. We did collect a free-will offering at each event which was allocated to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. We raised $900 for their important work.

Coinciding with the education series, we were honored to host the traveling exhibit: Why Treaties Matter – Self-government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations. The exhibit was in our narthex from Sept. 28 to Oct. 9 with 20 public viewing hours and many more viewing hours for our faith community and other groups. This exhibit is made possible through an application process with the Minnesota Humanities Center, in collaboration with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. (There was no cost to have this exhibit, we were the first church to host this exhibit.)

The “Why Treaties Matter” exhibit drew more than 330 participants of all ages due to the variety of weekday and weekend hours it was open, including between worship services on two Sundays. The public viewing times were staffed by our team.

Comments from participants in the teaching session and to the exhibit were overwhelmingly positive, and engagement was high. Consistent with our objective for this phase of our work, participants learned about our Indigenous siblings, gaining a greater appreciation for their history, including their pain and resilience, their wisdom and ongoing contributions. Another very important aspect of this phase of our work is the relationship building of our team and faith community with Vance.

These learnings and experiences have deeply affected our team and helped prepare us for the next phase of our work entitled, Native Stories. In this work, we plan to develop relationships and invite members of the Dakota and Ojibwe nations to tell their stories, seeking to learn more about the truth of the history of the land of Trinity and Stillwater, both pre-colonization by Europeans and into the present day.

Resource list from Vance Blackfox>>

Doctrine of Discovery
The Doctrine of Discovery provided legal justification for colonization and seizure of land not inhabited by Christians. Learn more by watching the video from the Mennonite Church below. What’s the role of our churches today?