Serving Others

The guest blogger today is Rev. Arnie Bolin, resident of Covenant Living in Northbrook. Arnie and his wife Marilyn are members of Winnetka Covenant Church. As we continue our blogging, know that there’s an open invitation to send your thoughts to share.


“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others. (Philippians 2:3-4, NRSV)

In the summer of 1966 our nation underwent civil unrest. It followed again in 1967. At the time, I, with Marilyn’s untiring support, was serving Community Covenant Church on the near north side of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was one of the first covenant churches planted in what we then called the inner city; now we label it urban ministry. The parsonage was two blocks south of Plymouth avenue, where what the media called “rioting” broke out. I prefer to call it civil unrest.

Our near north side ministerial association was very diverse yet close-knit, and we developed a schedule so that there would be a clergy presence on Plymouth avenue round the clock. About 8 a.m. on the second morning a young African-American lady emerged from one of the side streets, apparently unaware of what had been happening. She looked around and burst into tears. “My babies, my babies” she cried out. “Where can I get milk for my babies?” The grocery store had been torched. I took her in my car to another supermarket, and she got the milk and groceries she needed. To this day I have no idea why I had the car there when I lived so close by.

Our son Bradley, who was six and a half at the time, says he can remember waking up one morning to see a National Guard jeep parked in front of our house. From our back door I could see the guardsmen patrolling the street north of us.

It is amazing that over fifty years later our nation is still wallowing in racial issues. We lament how terrible racism is, and then after a bit we drift back into oblivion. We feel a helplessness, that the racially divided society we live in is not something that we can do anything about. If you are an employer, you can seek people of color to hire. If there are minority owned businesses, patronize them. We can vote. If you should relocate, you might choose to seek housing in an integrated neighborhood.

In the pre-pandemic days I rarely got to church because I am now wheelchair bound. But I have come to feeling that our congregation is an open, welcoming family. Please don’t think I am scolding our congregation! In no way am I thinking in such a vein. I am reflecting, rather, on how fortunate I am, and our family has been, to live in neighborhoods as a racial minority in Minneapolis for seven years, and in benton Harbor, Michigan, for almost twenty years.

I go back to the apostle Paul, telling us to regard others as BETTER than ourselves, and to look to the interests of others ahead of our own. What intrigues me is the question we should all ask, “Who are the ‘Others’?”Meditate on that question for awhile. For me, one of the first persons who comes to mind is the young mother I was able to get to the store where she could get milk for her babies. That was fifty-four years ago. I never saw her again.

Paul goes on to challenge us to “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Jesus took on the “form of a servant.” Can we take on the role of a servant?

God, help us to put others before ourselves. Amen.

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