Edna and Darrell Geddes

NCU alumni answer call to serve a city in pain

They grew up in Chicago about 15 minutes apart but Darrell ’81 and Edna (Cook) Geddes ’96 had to come to North Central University in Minneapolis to find each other. Darrell was a Pastoral Ministries major, and Edna was studying Psychology. After they met and figured out that they could carpool to and from campus for holidays, they found seven-hour car rides were a perfect way to deepen their relationship. “Darrell always tells the story that he fell in love with me, and I married him,” Edna said, with Darrell adding, “That’s right. The truth is the truth.”

After Darrell graduated from North Central they went back to Edna’s home church in Chicago to be youth pastors. Their journey took them from there to Little Rock, Arkansas, and back to Chicago where they were Senior Associates at South Side worship Center. In 1991, Darrell was invited by North Central to join the faculty and help pioneer an Urban Ministries major. While Darrell was serving at NCU, Edna was able to complete her bachelor’s degree.

In the midst of life and job changes, the couple also had two children—a son and a daughter, and now they are also proud grandparents.

Edna and Darrell both pursued education beyond NCU. Edna earned a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University and Darrell has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary.

After North Central, Darrell became Executive Director of the Urban Leadership Academy, and in 2002, he was voted in as the Senior Pastor at Christ Church International (CCI) in Minneapolis—the church formerly known as Minneapolis Gospel Tabernacle, which was the home for North Central Bible Institute when it started 90 years ago. “Our church will be a hundred years old this year,” Darrell said. Darrell also serves currently as the Executive Secretary of the National Black Fellowship of the Assemblies of God, one of 26 fellowships that are part of the AG fellowship.

Edna is a mental health practitioner at Nystrom and Associates and shares in ministry with Darrell, working in church leadership and overseeing women’s ministry at CCI.

Disruption

As pastors of an urban church in Minneapolis, Darrell and Edna found themselves thrust into the story of the large-scale disruption in the city that following the death of George Floyd in the early summer days of 2020. Violence and destruction that erupted in Minneapolis after Floyd’s killing surrounded their church on nearly every side.

At one point, the church caretaker found men they did not know on the roof of their building and asked them to leave. The next day, the church was reported to be the target of groups who came to town to cause destruction. Darrell and Edna, along with some members of the congregation, were staying at the church to protect the property as best they could, but according to Edna, “Darrell prayed a different prayer” that night. “You could tell it was intense, and full of passion as he asked for the angels to protect us. He said to the Lord, ‘We need you to do this.’”

While they stayed through the night positioned at the entrances, there ended up being police cars stationed on both sides of the block, and the block was roped off with yellow tape. The police remained through the night and there were no attacks against the church. This was just one example where Edna describes, “God sent help and reinforcement of various types.”

Meeting a vital need

Darrell and Edna believe that their church was protected because they needed to play an important role in ministering to the neighborhood following the wave of violence that had caused so much destruction.

Even before fires in the area stopped burning, Darrell and Edna saw the aftermath and began to pray. They knew their church had to help restore stability in the neighborhood. “That day when we were driving down the street,” Darrell recounted, “My wife and I asked ‘What are we going to do? What would be the proper response to this community?’”

They knew food insecurity would be tremendous because nearly every large chain and locally owned grocery venue had been destroyed. Darrell said, “We made up our minds at that moment that we were going become a food distribution hub for south Minneapolis to help people out until things get rebuilt.”

Beauty from ashes

With something as broad and devastating as what happened in Minneapolis last summer, it can be hard to find the good stories. But Darrell and Edna marvel at the work that God did at so many levels in the aftermath of the destruction.

A beautiful outcome, according to Darrell, has been new partnerships between urban and suburban churches to do large-scale food distribution at CCI. “We’re a small congregation and we would have done what we could have done,” he said. “But other churches rallied around us! And the partnerships that have been created with some of our suburban churches really helped us to become light to a community that was really in the midst of some real darkness.”

In June, July, and August, CCI, with the help of many partnering churches, gave out “bags of hope”—boxes full of non-perishable food. Darrell estimates they distributed more than 2,000 boxes over a three-month period of time. As stores reopened, they saw the need for the large-scale food distribution diminish and stopped the weekly program, but the church continues to serve the neighborhood that is still in recovery from trauma.

Darrell observed that another outcome has been increased reconciliation and cooperation with neighbors of the church who previously demonstrated animosity toward the church and its members. He said the same night they were staying up through the night to protect their property, the neighbors were out trying to protect their property, as well. They worked together to be watchful of each other’s buildings and even came up with flashlight codes that would allow them to signal for help if needed, and relations have been much more cordial since then.

Darrell and Edna pointed out that new, fresh conversations and acts of reconciliation have been another positive result that emerged from a devastating situation.

“We had a prayer meeting in October in our church courtyard after a number of white evangelical pastors wanted to get together,” Darrell said. “They really wanted to repent to the African-American community for their lack of involvement down through the years in pushing for social justice and civil rights for communities of color. About 50 or 60 people gathered, and it was a real time of just true repentance, just a wonderful opportunity. [Through all this] we’ve made longstanding friendships.”

Just this week, the AG National Black Fellowship held a series of meetings in response to the social unrest and what the church can do. Darrell explained, “We’ve got suburban and urban pastors meeting, just brainstorming on how we can respond together as a unit to the unrest that followed the George Floyd murder.” And to look for positive solutions going forward.

A kairos moment

In Influence Magazine last summer, Darrell and other leaders from the National Black Fellowship shared perspectives on current events. In Darrell’s article in the publication, he said that the church’s response after George Floyd presents a “kairos moment—an opportunity for the church to be the church.”

Edna echoed this and sees an increased interest and willingness to participate in hard conversations, too. “People are definitely more open,” she said. “They are expressing their anxieties about it, their frustration, their pain, and that’s being validated.” She sees the role of their church in such close proximity to the pain as a calling. “We feel like that we’ve been called to the kingdom for such a time as this, and you know, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We love where we’re located. We don’t love what happened. We don’t endorse what happened. But we really feel like God placed us here for such a time as this. We consider this a kairos moment, you know, a special moment in time. And we believe that God is using this to strengthen the church.”

Darrell said a great example of churches coming together is in A Prayer Gathering for Unity and Peace taking place before the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of killing George Floyd. “They’ve planned this big prayer rally for Sunday, March 7, the day before the trial is scheduled to start, and it’s interesting. Rob Ketterling from River Valley, a huge megachurch, and Bishop Howell who pastors an African-American megachurch on the North side, are chairing this movement along with some other people. It’s just interesting to see all of these churches, all of these pastors and lay leaders coming together at the Government Center to pray for peace, for justice, and for reconciliation.”

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