Tuesday, February 02, 2010

"Welcoming Justice" Making Beloved Community Real, here and there

I came across this wonderful excerpt from the new book Welcoming Justice by John Perkins and Charles Marsh, John Perkins of our 3Ra roadmap of relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation (and we add a fourth R for Retention of current residents) you will hear a lot about here and read in posts below. It sums up much of the aim of what we try to do here and of the new missional and new monastic movements where progressive faith has been so lacking. It connects with all things having to do with rediscovering a sense of place, ecology, organic, glocal, going small, leaven and mustard seed parable living.

One thing I want to say about John Perkins' call here for churches on how to act in and toward their place, is that you first have to consider the locale and place of the local church; consider most of what Perkins is writing here about what the church is called to do; most or all of it won't really have to be done if the church is located in a place where resources are available to residents. Instead, this stance has the assumption built in that the church will be in or relocate to one of the abandoned places of Empire. This can happen in a number of different ways; but it has to happen. Also see how the whole point of the church shifts as a result?

So many churches see their role as getting out a message, and in the places most liberal churches are primarily located in and where most liberals seem themselves to live, at least those of european descent, there are not the pressing needs of the community development---those are addressed by other groups and institutions and the people themselves have the resources to meet basic needs---and so what is left is to get out the message of a particular theological orientation. But message-driven churches are so limited in their scope; for those who seek to embody the spirit of Jesus to be message-oriented is also to miss so much of the embodied radical, go where the need is, spirit. And more and more today people aren't seeking a message community; they can get that from home via the internet or magazines etc; they are seeking a sense of their mission in life being tied up with others in a real way making a real difference in the lives of others.

Here is the excerpt that resonated so much with me and captures what we, this crazy tribe of generous diversity loving folks called church, try, and fail, and keep trying to do here.:

Making Beloved Community Happen, by John Perkins from the new book Welcoming Justice by Perkins and Charles Marsh

“So what does it take to make beloved community happen? I really believe that it begins with a place. I’ve preached relocation all my life because the communities I’ve been a part of have been abandoned. Everybody left, so I called them to come back. But my real concern is for the place. If the church is going to offer some real good news in broken communities, it has to be committed to a place. We can’t just be a commuter church in the community.

In our community in West Jackson, we’ve got one of those churches where people drive in from all over town on Sunday morning. That church is not an asset to the community. It’s a liability. All those cars jam up our streets on Sunday morning and make it hard for us to get around. And they do almost nothing to help the community. A church that wants to be about God’s movement has to be committed to making a good life possible for people in the place where we are.

If you care about a place, you’ll care about the kids in that place. If you don’t care about the kids, they’ll knock out your windows. But the kids in our neighborhood don’t knock out our windows. One of the first things we did when we came here was to put in a sandbox and build a jungle gym. We made sure there was a field for kids to play ball . So now we can say, “Don’t throw rocks. Go throw the ball in the field.” The kids need to be able to play in the community…

When you’re committed to a place, you also care about the beauty of the place. The flowers around our place are important. Every summer the children come running to ask me if they can take some flowers home with them. They don’t have pretty flowers at home. So I always tell them “Yes, but wait till the end of the day. When you’re going home, you can cut a few and take them home to your mother.” Shared beauty makes people want to share life together. You don’t have to tend your flowers in a neighborhood very long before you have something to talk to your neighbors about.

It may sound simple but I think you’ve got to have neighbors you talk to and get to know before you can love your neighbor as yourself. That’s why community development has been so important to me all these years. The church can’t organize the perfect community. If people aren’t drawn by the cords of love to a vision of beloved community, you can’t force it on them. But we can organize for justice. We can develop a community so that there is a place for people to know one another. That’s the work God has given us to do. Only God can send the rain, but we can till the ground by committing to a place and making sure people can flourish there. That’s the first thing the church has to do if we’re going to interrupt the brokenness of society.

As we commit to our communities, we also need to learn how to see them as economic places. It’s not enough to just move into a place, plant some flowers and be nice to your neighbors. All of that is good, but that won’t address the brokenness of people’s lives because the structures of the community are broken. People need work, good housing, education and health care. So the church has to invest its resources in developing the community. We also need to use our influence to get businesses and government to invest in the community. All of this is crucial to creating the conditions that are necessary for beloved community. ….

I wish churches spent more time thinking about how their members could love one another and share a common life by working together as a community. Part of the reason our churches are so individualistic is that we just accept the economic systems of our culture without question. We assume that the people who can get the good jobs should go wherever they have to and the people who can’t get the good jobs should just take what they can get. But churches that want to interrupt the brokenness of society ought to be about creating jobs in the community and giving neighbors an opportunity to work together. If we take our communities seriously as economic places, we’ll spend more time thinking about creating good work than we spend thinking about more relevant worship styles or bigger church buildings."

Type rest of the post here

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