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)

The World on Edge

Massacre in a place of worship (AGAIN).

Ferguson, MO on edge.

As we ramp up to take sides on social media and NOT listen to each other yet again…

A prayer.

A prayer for peace in our communities

Gracious God,
We pray for peace in our communities this day.
We commit to you all who work for peace and an end to tensions,
And those who work to uphold law and justice.
We pray for an end to fear,
For comfort and support to those who suffer.
For calm in our streets and cities,
That people may go about their lives in safety and peace.
In your mercy, hear our prayers,
now and always. Amen

Why do we fear relationships?

The issues of race, ethnic divides, immigration concerns, are such hot button issues. 

Immediately following the events of 9/11, I immediately contacted my Muslim friends to make sure they were okay. I wanted them to know I wasn’t angry with them and I wanted, above all, to make sure no one else was taking anything out on them right away. It was in knowing these precious friends I could understand the nervousness and fear they felt in the months following 9/11. 

I reached out further by organizing events to put Christian college students with Muslim high school students. The director of the Muslim school was so deeply appreciative and during the event he pulled me aside and thanked me. Then, the inevitable question: “WHY are you doing this?” 

“The more we know, the less we fear,” I responded. 

And it works both ways. When these white Christian students got to Muslims, they feared less. The Muslim students getting to know at least one white Christian helped them not have a knot in their stomach as well. 

In our own community, the police are very pro-active in building relationships so kids don’t see a cop and have an urge to clam up, turn away, or run. The community has “coffee with a cop” days. The police sponsor open gyms at the middle school and high school. They get to know kids and kids get to know them so if a 9-11 call happens and a cop may know a kid or adult involved, they can have a bit more civilized conversation in the process and things don’t escalate as much. 

Interestingly enough, it is because I know police officers and also have friends who are from the St. Louis area that also know the racial tensions in that area that I know the anxiety on BOTH sides. If we are on the outside looking in, we tend to look at “systems” and want to diagnose the “system.” If we actually know people and have relationships, we know “systems” may be part of the problem, but the situation is a lot “stickier” than solving a legislative issue. 

I prefer the mess of relationships. I am weary of the ideological bombs we throw at each other. I can hunker down in my ideology and feel good about winning an argument, but at the end of the day, I’m just hunkered down with my ideology feeling good about myself. For some that’s enough. For me, the world is much richer than that. It’s messier, but it’s richer.