by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
It happened again. Someone moved the graffiti-painted street sign, the demolished brick blocks from the EASTLYNN apartment building, and the prayer write up about our church’s involvement at The Hope Center. To be fair, they left one block standing. All of these prayer symbols were sitting on the floor in our Soul Sanctuary, in the back in the middle of the Prayer Circle.
Yes, the inner city was in the way again. It was a stumbling block – literally. You had to walk around it. That is the point: all of us have figured out how to avoid and ignore entire zip codes of crime, violence, poverty, oppression and death. Can’t really blame any normal-thinking person for doing so, can we? We have no reason to go to the innercity. As Henri Nouwen tells us ‘the innercity is a funeral home – the dead go there to be forgotten.’ Why hang out in a funeral home? Because Jesus never saw anyone as dead. They were sleeping, waiting to be awakened. The ‘dead’ are eternally alive (damned or redeemed.)
Those who stand with Jesus cannot believe the lie that says the inner city is dead, hopelessly dead.
We must put the inner city back in our way, back in our Prayer Circle, back in our driving routes; we must create reasons to be with our fellow humans in the inner city.
This is why we hope to purchase a large brick house in the inner city. We want to renovate it, make it a model house for sustainable green urban living for the economically disadvantaged. We want to make it into a retreat house. We want to assist The Hope Center by providing free living space for The Hope Center staff. The Hope Center works with at-risk students, reparenting, tutoring, challenging, and developing Christ-centered leadership. We want to move in across the street.
So I will place the graffiti sign, the block, the write up back in the center of the Prayer Circle – a stumbling block to many, but a symbol of HOPE for all who believe