I first met Roger when visiting Glencliff United Methodist Church with members from Sixty-First Avenue UMC.
Roger lives across the street from Glencliff, but this was his first time to visit. A lifelong member of the Church of Christ, he had a special reason for coming. Reverend Sandra Griggs invited him to speak just before beginning her sermon.
My favorite parable is “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25–37) because in it, you can find the practice of Christian living. That wasn’t the passage she preached on, but it came to mind as I listened to Roger.
Walking with a cane to the center of the sanctuary, he said that he didn’t think he would need a microphone. He began by explaining that he lived across the street, and had heard about the Village at Glencliff. The Village will be a micro-home community providing bridge housing to recently hospitalized individuals who have no place to call home and some of our most vulnerable friends. It’s been met with varied opinions, and some opposition throughout the neighborhood. So, I didn’t know what to expect from what Roger had to say. He began:
“I’ve thought about all the churches throughout America, and that if every church just took on one homeless person, we could solve this situation. I mean, churches are everywhere! I’ve come here because I wanted to thank you for what you’re doing with your property. I’ve always wanted to work with homeless people, and now I can just walk across the street to do it. Thank you.”
Struck by his sincerity, I realized that the Good Samaritan story isn’t as simple as we sometimes make it. What happened to the guy who helped? What did people think of him for giving his money to care for a stranger? Was his wife angry? Were others who were staying comfortably at the inn mad for having their rest disrupted?
The Village at Glencliff is a reawakening of this parable – living out before our eyes, with all of the messiness that Christian living can bring. I followed up with Roger after the service, and videotaped our conversation. I hope that you’ll be as inspired as I am. If you like, you can watch it with others and reflect on these questions:
- When have I been ridiculed or put down for helping strangers in need?
- How did it feel, and did it change your pattern of Christian living?
- How were you in ministry with those who were against your act of mercy?
Just about everybody I know is living in some level of crisis or disruption. We don’t always see it on the outside, like we may among those living in poverty in America. God touches each of us uniquely to help one another. Praying that we have the courage, strength, resources and mercy to do so.
UPDATE: 2 pm
I just received a call from Covenant Capital Group management and was told that, after Monday, all tenants were given the chance to extend their leases through May 31st. I’m thankful for this compassionate response, and pray that tenants are able to find affordable housing, good schools and loving community wherever they go.
When I was little, we sometimes got very quiet (pretending nobody was home) if an unknown religious person came to the door unexpectedly. This week, I was on the other side of the door, knocking at Covenant Capital Group. Here’s why:
Tenants of Premier West Apartments are being evicted at the end of their leases, due to the purchase and subsequent upgrades/renovations of the building by Covenant Capital Group. Among their current tenants are families who’ve lived there for years, faithfully paying rent they could afford. Some tenants receive Section 8 assistance. Others do not.
Tenants are asking for four things:
- That Covenant Capital extend all leases to June 1st, allowing children to complete their school year;
- That renovations be done in such a way that tenants could stay at Premier West – not necessarily in their current apartments;
- That rent is not raised more than $40 per month in the lease term, since Covenant Capital has stated the desire to provide affordable housing; and
- That Covenant Capital would allow Section 8 vouchers to continue in the new building.
Why do I care? My church home is in the neighborhood, and children from the afterschool program (now closed) have lived there. One of our long-term members now lives in White Bluff, commuting to McDonalds on Charlotte Pike – 30 miles away. Working-class housing has been all but wiped out of the Nations neighborhood where 61st United Methodist Church is located. Where are people to live?
I went to a protest at Covenant Capital Group to stand with tenants, and ask Covenant Capital to do the right thing. After much knocking, calling and waiting, the group needed to leave due to after-school pickups. I, in my clergy collar, stayed behind, knocking, calling, and sending messages through their website. After a good while, management came and spoke with me:
- Since leases end at varying times, each tenant must speak with property management to negotiate a new move-out date;
- Tenants will not be allowed to remain during renovations due to potential safety hazards;
- Since the renovated apartments will be rented to middle-income people, they are very certainly going to be more than $40 per month additional than existing leases; and
- Section 8 will not be determined until renovations are done which are expected to be completed this fall.
I gave this news with Austin Sauerbrei of Open Table Nashville. While encouraged that I was able to speak with management, he shared that tenants have already gone to the property manager, only to be told the decision is in the hands of the owner (Covenant Capital Group). So, it seems this has become a circular discussion. I’ve offered to go with tenants to property management, with Austin, to follow management’s direction. I’ll write about what happens next.
In the meantime, “act justly…love mercy… walk humbly with your God.”*
a self offering
the tomb awaits.
a mother weeps.
even on the cross
leads a path
the tomb awaits.
a mother weeps.
a son beloved
the prophets words
old testament verses
felt and seen
the tomb awaits.
a mother weeps.
the woven tunic
of a high priest
divided by lots
the days work done.
it is finished.
the tomb awaits.
a mother weeps.
a hurried burial
a rich man’s grave
care by faithful women
and men of courage.
the tomb is sealed.
a mother weeps.
dawn of the
the stone rolled away
in the living
Christ is Risen!
by friend and colleague in ministry jackieshields
I am deeply saddened this morning to learn of the passing of Ahmed Kathrada, a true hero of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. For those that don’t recognize the name, he was sentenced along with Nelson Mandela and others at the infamous Rivonia Trial in 1964 to life in prison, even though he was not a member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC.
If you saw the film Mandela, you saw Kathrada being portrayed, especially in the absurdity of being allowed long pants in prison as an Indian while Mandala, Sisulu and the others had to wear short pants as black prisoners.
One day after Mandela became President I attended a formal dinner in the Parliament of South Africa. Kathrada was there. After we ate, my fellow Parsee, Frene Ginwala, the Speaker, asked all the guests to follow her for a tour of the Parliament. I noticed Kathrada stayed in his seat and so I decided to as well.
When all the others left, I walked over to him, introduced myself and asked if I could ask him a question. I asked him if the jailers on Robben Island really didn’t know that papers written by them were being hidden in the cleaning closet or if they knew but let it happen. He was intrigued that a foreigner would know enough to ask such a detailed question. It began a conversation that has lasted in my memory to today.
Other than giving me a blast about the Canadian Government’s attitude towards a visa for him (a matter he was quite angry about), we had an extraordinary discussion about history, apartheid, what happened at Robben Island, the personalities of his colleagues and the future of South Africa.
At the end of it, as we sat completely alone in the large room in Parliament, he offered to give me a memento. There was no one to ask for anything so he wrote a note to me on a napkin in a red pen. I have always had a personal policy of not asking for anything from the historical figures I have met (I must be the only person on the planet who met Mandela but have no photograph with him) but that napkin, which was a very encouraging and personal message to me, I treasure.
Ahmed Kathrada came out of 26 years of prison a profoundly calm man. He was one of the very few, perhaps the only person, who never asked for anything after apartheid was extinguished for his years in prison. It is a remarkable lessen in humility and selflessness. It is a mark of a truly extraordinary man who understood the meaning of sacrifice with no other motive to achieve a goal.
By Firdaus Kharas, a social entrepreneur and media producer who uses video and animation to better the human condition around the world.
Last week I wrote about channeling my anger for good during the Trump administration. I said:
The hateful rhetoric and falsehoods that propelled our current president to power strikes at the core of who I am, and against the foundations of my faith tradition.
I came up with a method (ROAR) to keep me focused, and now I’m working it. I thought I’d take some time to write about my experiences. For sure, I’ll make missteps and will share those too. This week is “Relate.”
Relating to people of differing opinion has grown more difficult in the digital age. We now have a president who has regularly used Twitter to bully and oppress, and whose following is so large that his behavior is somehow condoned. We have to remember that a large number of people also condoned lynching, stood by silently during the Holocaust, and cried for the death of Jesus Christ. Numbers alone don’t mean much.
Here’s where the rubber hits the road. Do I have faith enough to act on the things I believe, even if it makes me really uncomfortable? And can a small number of committed people make a difference?
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I reached out to someone whose political views are radically different from my own, and who uses them to bully others. I asked if we could host community gatherings together – the purpose would be to get to know our neighbors, and the issues they face. These gatherings could take the emphasis off of a national leader and help us focus locally on things that could unite us. So far, my first effort was only met with the other person doubling down in divisiveness.
I haven’t given up hope yet.
Small numbers of committed people can make a difference. Most weeks, I’m part of a gathering pretty much like the one I described above. The group who meets is one big mixed lot. Some live on the streets. Some live in mansions. Some Democrat. Some Republican. Some don’t care to know the difference. We come from a variety of ethnicities, but have found that the common blood of humanity and Christ is enough to tie us together. The place? Sixty-First Avenue United Methodist Church.
Last night, the fear for loved ones affected by executive orders was palpable in the after-sermon sharing time. Pastor Marie had just preached from Micah 6:8 which says,
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
How do we live out this essential element of faith under this administration?
We can’t let the government define who we can and can’t love any more than we can legislate discipleship. We can’t let the government define who is and isn’t of a particular faith either. And if we who are Christian want to prove ourselves to be outwardly Christian as potential litmus tests are considered – wouldn’t we emulate our leader – Jesus Christ – who ate with the outsiders of his time? Wouldn’t we be the Good Samaritan and not leave harmed travelers by the side of the road?
One thing I know that I can do is host an interfaith dinner – intentionally reaching out to those who are being oppressed. This type of regular gathering could resist profiling’s damaging effect of increased prejudice and hate crimes. It can make a difference.
I will get to work and will write about the experience. I cannot stand idly by.