Friday, April 15, 2011

Urban versus Rural

I have been carrying this material around with me since last fall......I have been thinking about what I learned and waiting for the right time to put some thoughts down about what happened.  I had the privilege of attending an event in New York City called Movement Day.  It was designed to acquaint those in my network of churches with leaders involved in inner city ministry.  Since most of my colleagues are in rural or suburban settings, this was to be quite an eye opening opportunity. 

First, just walking around was an experience.  Most people had their heads buried in their smartphone or ipad, diligently texting, talking or watching something of apparently great importance, while simultaneously walking through consruction sites, dodging speeding taxis (literally), and seemingly unconcerned about the potential to get mugged or robbed at any moment.

Second my hotel was in an area of the city that took me back to my days in southern Iraq.  It was damp, the air was heavy, debris was everywhere, and there was the all too familiar smell of a sand and oil mix.  The store where I bought my evening banana was run by a recently arrived Arab family, around the corner I ate supper at a mexican restaraunt that felt like Tampico, and I could have easily had desert with an Indian merchant in the next storefront.  This is all one city block mind you.  About a half a mile away, seems like someone drew this line in the road and we entered an area that felt more like my current reality.  Here we had breakfast at a Greek owned Coney Island type eatery that was to become our main source of meals in the next two days.  Keep in mind that my current community not 4%, but .4% minorities.  Here there were at least 5 nationalities in one city block.

View from my hotel room
Third, we were graciously led around by some of our network's more adventurous members of our urban church planting team.  Some of them had been in the city for up to nine years by this time.  They took us to supper, showed us the town, and provided tips on how to use the subway effectively.  They also provided some great interaction time in one of their apartments, sharing their vision for ministry, the challenges of city life, and the important steps invovled in a country boy successfully transitioning into an urban church planter/pastor.   I found myself growing impatient with these think tank members, wondering when we were going to see some "results" of all their work.  They assured me they were making progress and that inroads into urban settings takes a long time.  For example, they told me that if someone like me (53 year old white male, die hard Red Sox fan, having a conservative political construct, love for his pick up....etc......) was to decide on planting a church in NYC, the first requirement was that I had to come here, find a job, and live in the city for two whole years before doing anything other than learning to live in the city.  Right.  I thought, well, ........let's say I wasn't exactly convinced.  Hmmm, the next morning, I was to learn how right they were. 

But this post is long enough.  It's also getting late.

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