I have loved this city

It was over 20 years ago I picked up a book that helped me understand how I was wired. The realization in my life at the time was I was wired for urban life. It wasn’t about “gentrification” or some nirvana feel of high end coffee shops and five star restaurants in proximity to billion dollar sports stadiums.

Continue reading “I have loved this city”

When things go WELL in a city

It’s easy to get caught up in the stories of Baltimore, Ferguson, and so many more places and possibly think, “Wow… NOTHING seems to be going right.”

What we don’t get to hear enough of is when things go WELL in a city. My city, where I pastor, is an inner ring suburb of the Twin Cities. In my time as pastor the demographic has flipped from mainly white and older to plurality of cultures and younger. It has one of the lowest median price ranges for homes in the metro. Over 80 percent of our kids in the schools qualify for free or reduced lunch. The high school 15 years ago was 73 percent white and 27 percent all other groups. Today it’s completely flipped.

And things go WELL in my city. Last night I was privileged to give away scholarships for my Kiwanis group. I love this night and insist I be the one to give this scholarship away. I would actually go to this night if I wasn’t giving any money away just to watch.

In a city with these so-called issues, our community comes together to give away a massive amount of money in scholarships. Last night it was just shy of $225,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors. No other school in the metro touches that goal. Rich school districts, like school districts… there just isn’t a close comparison.

One young lady who received our Kiwanis scholarship is going to the University of Minnesota. She received over $10,000 in scholarships last night from various donors. Her family is a new American family. She is making a way in this country her parents have worked hard to give her. She gets to plow new territory for her family and bring hope to the next generation of Americans.

Please remember, media won’t focus on when things go WELL. You have to get out and see these stories for themselves. And they are stories worth hearing… and telling.

I love my city and love telling others how WELL it can be in the city.

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When the large needs to learn from the small

In the church context, that’s another conversation. And, let’s be honest, probably one that won’t be had in the near future.

But there IS a context it SHOULD happen… and SOON.

There are two situations linked in a way I think it’s time to say, “The large could learn from the small.”

One article posted by a couple of teachers in the school district where I pastor struck a cord. It’s about the tough environment of teaching high needs/high risk kids and the lack of support that happens in that environment.

The other event is Baltimore. The recent riots and the whole issue of community policing, poverty, race, and more.

I want to invite anyone and everyone to Columbia Heights, MN. We don’t do everything well, but we have an attitude to do things RIGHT.

The schools are incredibly diverse and deal with poverty. In the midst of that, along with the harsh conditions teachers deal with day in and day out, success can happen. It’s not always noticeable, and that’s a shame. But our school system is visionary in how they educate kids of all economic and intellectual development.

Our city does community policing the right way. It’s always a struggle, but it’s done WELL. They hire for diversity when at all possible. They get involved in the schools as big brothers/sisters. They have open gym times. They know kids before they have to deal with kids on trouble. It makes a huge difference.

“Big” cities need to see how this place does it.

They love the community and invite the community to the table… ALL of the community. As a pastor, I’ve always enjoyed wonderful access to our community and have worked many years to bring positive solutions to the city. They allow us to help mentor kids in the high school. They allow us places at the table in key committees within the city and the district… as the church. 

They work hard to have all voices at the table and when a segment is missing, it actually bothers them.

We can do things right. Minneapolis should come up all of three blocks from their border and learn. Baltimore should come out here. Ferguson should REALLY come out here.

Talk to our leaders. Talk to our churches. Talk to our mosque.

It’s not perfect. But it’s not Baltimore, either.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. (Matt. 5:9)

Why my city rocks

I love reflecting on the city where I pastor because there are so many things going on that are RIGHT. They are not totally right all the time, but there are things that defy current trends.

For instance, Columbia Heights is on the very low end of “affluence” in the Twin Cities. Rock bottom for the metro area, I believe. Housing stock is good, but values are low. We are incredibly diverse. Over 70 percent of students in the schools are on free and reduced lunches as well.

Racially diverse. Not affluent. Not great housing stock. Recipe for disaster.

Except… it’s not.

Crime is at a 40 year low. Our school system was only one of four in the metro area to have test scores go UP by state standards in the last academic year.

There are so many reasons why this is such wonderful news and why it won’t make the news.

1. Community policing. The police are incredibly proactive. Every officer is required to have community service hours every month. Even the police chief. He is a big brother in an elementary school.

2. Pro-active government. They work hard to get ahead of issues and promote the beauty of the diversity we have in our city.

3. Pro-active schools. They work hard to navigate language barriers, learning levels, and more. This district gives away more scholarship money every year for college than our richest suburbs. It is a joy to see.

4. Government that actually LIKES churches. We are welcome to take part in any effort that furthers our city. We mentor students, help with programs, sponsor community events, etc. They want us involved BEFORE a problem arises.

There is so much more, but I wanted to stop quickly and give thanks for what God is doing in our community. We need a breath of good news from time to time.