Saturday, November 24, 2012

Why It Matters Where We Live: The Awakening of Hope, part three, this Sunday at The Welcome Table

The Awakening of Hope: why we practice a common faith, part three: Why It Matters Where We Live….Notes and video links and more resources for this Sunday's conversation at 9:30 am followed by a Thanksgiving Communion and a Common Meal at The Welcome Table missional community. All are welcome.

Video episode linked above focuses on the story of Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis of North Carolina, she an African American woman and he a former Klansman, a Klansman still when they met in the neighborhood they lived in and began a relationship of antagonism but continued connection led him to leaving the Klan and working together to improve a local school. Here is an interview with Ann Atwater And the documentary on them is An Unlikely Friendship and the book from which it is taken is The Best of Enemies

Why It Matters Where We Live: Begins by telling a story of the New Jerusalem Now community in one of the most abandoned places of Philadelphia, where a couple of religious sisters live with those in recovery. “though it has been overlooked by city government, red-lined by lenders, avoided by real estate agents, and preyed on by hucksters, God is present.” … they do not remove people from the neighborhood just from the practices and contacts of their previous life in the neighborhood in order to aid their recovery. Former residents now help run it. They often quote the passage in Ezekiel where God brings life to dry bones in a dry abandoned valley. Those recovering see their own recovery tied up with the recovery the reclaiming of their place; just as they need newness in their lives, they need it in the neighborhood. “We ascend by descending.” (into self, into God, into place). When founder Sister Margaret turned 90 she was pleased to retire and turn the responsibilities over to others, especially to one who was from the place and had grown into leadership there; but he was tempted and ran off with the money for operations. They almost had to close, but she came out of retirement and they received new gifts of money and of new leadership from others, for her it was evidence of the constant journey we make from Empire to God, and the learning that “we have been caught up in God’s reconciliation of all things.”

Place matters, but Israel learns in Babylon that God can hallow any ground…Still we live in a culture of placelessness. We may know more about what is going on in Tokyo and New York than we do our own watershed….yet we yearn for home, and marketers market it to us all the time, but it cannot satisfy the longing, and doesn’t want to, for the longing drives the constant attempt at seeking to purchase it. “A placeless culture threatens to hold us captive in the cyberspace of endless desire.”…The places we live matter because we are each called to participate in Christ’s incarnation, making the material the holy, the dirty holy, but not in the model of franchises where all is created to be the same no matter where you are; incarnation celebrates diversity of place and people by lifting up the holiness of the particular. “We are not a franchise with billions served. We are a body rooted in Israel called to hallow every place.” Jesus the Jew doesn’t walk around Samaria as was custom but walks through it, so meets the Samaritan woman at the well, same with the Syro-Phoenician woman in her land.

“Gathering places are needed, and it is a great gift to have a room or a building devoted to prayer. But church buildings do not define holy ground for those “in Christ.” The ground we till to plant, the streets connecting us one to another, the homes where we live, the shops where we work, the “third spaces” where we meet neighbors, the forests where nature’s rhythms are preserved, the abandoned lot we overlook—all of these places are holy now. God wants to meet us here, and to meet our neighborhoods through us.” Monasticism calls us to engage our places.

Church shopping is a contemporary practice; used to be church wrapped up with where you could walk, to your zipcode. Once upon a time one church for all, then divisions and battles ran one church out of town, then modern technology allowed us to go across town or from town to town for church. “Incarnation interrupts us.” It interrupts our cultural norms and calls us back to place.

Questions: Does the Incarnation, that God pitched a tent in a particular neighborhood, a particular people, a particular person, especially where and who God was incarnated, change how you see your place and how you live? What practices might make living sacredly in your place more possible? Who are the elders like Ann Atwater in your community whom you can learn from about living more deeply in your place?

Activities: Map your neighborhood and name the people you know who live in it, and pray for them. Try to get to know the names of those you don’t know….Learn more about a “local saint.”…Join a group that will be working for the neighborhood even after you are gone.

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