Super Bowl LII is coming to the Twin Cities on February 4. As of this writing, The Minnesota Vikings are a favored contender to play in our own U.S. Bank Stadium! Precursor events to the championship football game include venues like the Minneapolis Convention Center, Nicollet Mall, Loring Park, Stadium Plaza, and the Ice Palace in Rice Park. All the activity, anticipation, and antics of this annual global phenomenon are branded “Bold North” for our trademark Minnesota winters.
Although the stadium is retrofitted for up to 70,000 game day spectators, one million people are expected to visit the Twin Cities. If they come to encounter Minnesota’s “Bold North,” what would it be like if they were welcomed with United Methodism’s “Warm Hearts”? From a spiritual perspective, winners and losers of a football game are of little consequence. However, our work and witness as a people of faith holds significant stake in peripheral impact from the big game, especially in the areas of human trafficking, homelessness, and hospitality.
Our United Methodist leaders have been at the table with organizations like Source, Heartland Girls’ Ranch, Breaking Free, Cornerstone/Day One, Men as Peacemakers, Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, The Minnesota Council of Churches, Emma Norton Services, Simpson Housing Services, and Super Bowl security to develop opportunities for education, advocacy, and volunteering.
Statistical reports vary regarding the influence of the Super Bowl on escalation of human trafficking, but no one debates the visibility the Super Bowl can bring to this tragic social problem. The United Methodist Women are “Standing in the Red Zone” through sponsorship of a virtual 5K run/walk from January 26-February 5 (Twitter @UMWomen, #UMWRedZone). A rally titled “Intercept the Traffickers” is scheduled at Hennepin Avenue UMC from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on January 27. “In Our Backyard” is a similar ecumenical gathering at Hope Community Church in Minneapolis also on January 27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Crossroads UMC church bus will be driving the perimeter of Super Bowl event venues with a banner of support and crisis care availability for victims of human trafficking.
New: Additionally, if you are looking for another opportunity to serve during the Super Bowl week, visit www.servethecity2018.com for volunteer opportunities or ways to donate. This is an ecumenical initiative organized by our partnering church, Hope Community Church. This form will connect you with ways to serve that are right for you.
On any given night in Minnesota, about 9,000 people are homeless and half that population are children, youth, and young adults. During the Super Bowl week, overnight lodging is being shifted from First Covenant Church to St. Olaf Catholic Church. There is still need for safe and warm daytime space for people dislocated from their usual locations. A community meal will be hosted by Hennepin Avenue UMC on Sunday, Feb 4 at 4:30 p.m. The coalition of Downtown Churches to End Homelessness is uniting to raise $100,000 for emergency rental assistance to help people on the financial margins avoid losing their existing housing. An interfaith service “Bold Hope: Interfaith Unity” will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church on January 28 at 2 p.m. with the Street Song Choir singing and a Hall of Fame Football Player speaking.
Throughout the couple of weeks surrounding the Super Bowl, hospitality for police and security personnel will be provided at both the Historic Wesley Center and Hope Community Church. There is need for volunteer hospitality staff and beverage and food donations. What a wonderful way to reach out with hands of welcome, hearts of mercy, and voices of justice at a time when the world needs so much more than mere entertainment.
If you need more information on any of these events or seek avenues for participation, please contact the Twin Cities District Office at firstname.lastname@example.org (612-230-6146).
A Fellow Team Member in Christ, Dan Johnson
Dan Johnson is superintendent for the Minnesota Annual Conference's Twin Cities District.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church