Friday, February 05, 2016

WALKING EPIPHANY in suburban PA: neighborhood notes from Kaley Ehret


Welcome to the second annual WALKING EPIPHANY series of guest posts! I've asked a few friends who live around the world to take a walk through their neighborhoods, and share some of what they see through photos, videos and words. Each one has selected from a variety of thoughtful prompts to consider the ways the Light has moved into their neighborhoods. Will you join us?

Read here for a brief description of the liturgical season of Epiphany. See the 2015 WALKING EPIPHANY posts hereAlso, don't miss the opportunity to engage with thought-provoking questions for your own neighborhood, listed at the end of this post.

-----------------------------------

The Ehret Family
Telford, PA

A photo posted by Kaley Ehret (@kaleyehret) on

A photo posted by Kaley Ehret (@kaleyehret) on

Prompt: Practice resurrection

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

Wendell Berry"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from The Country of Marriage (1973) 
There's a bit of irony to our post following up Bethany's beautiful post about Community First! Village and the description of her home as "a neighborhood designed in every way to facilitate community with and among its inhabitants, most of whom have endured chronic homelessness for much of their lives." Wes and I moved to the suburbs about 6 years ago after spending the first 7 years of our marriage living in the spacious countryside of upstate NY. 

We've often said that we feel a bit like foreigners to this way of living. In many ways, the suburbs are the opposite of what Bethany described - instead of facilitating community among its inhabitants, the suburbs seem to be designed to protect their homeowners from the inconveniences that community can bring. From automatic garage door openers to the well-built fences to the deserted front porches, it's possible to hide from any type of interactions with a neighbor with very little effort. 

Our first two big projects on our fixer-upper home were intentionally planned to create space for and facilitate community - a finished basement and a backyard patio. In the winter months, we host football parties and enjoy the sounds of generally raucous behavior from our boys playing with their neighbor friends. In the summertime, our patio becomes a hub for parties, cookouts, campfires, and jam sessions while our yard becomes whatever the imaginations of the current group of children playing in it want it to be. 

.....


A photo posted by Kaley Ehret (@kaleyehret) on

A photo posted by Kaley Ehret (@kaleyehret) on

A photo posted by Kaley Ehret (@kaleyehret) on

Prompt: God's household

Life, breath, food, companionship -- every good thing is a gift from the abundant providence of God. The kingdom of God, this great economy, is embodied in the world when God's people respond to God's provision with gratitude, sharing God's gifts generously with others. The word economy reminds us again that creation is God's household; we are tasked with sustaining it and keeping it in the order God intended. It should be a place where all humans and all creatures are loved and honored and where generosity is commonplace.

C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison

Lest I give the suburbs a bad name, they can also be a place of beautiful community if the residents are willing to just step outside. Our neighbors have become some of our dearest friends. When we are together, the laughter and the stories flow. We have been the blessed recipients of our neighbor-friends' generosity on countless occasions in the forms of help offered on house projects, first hair cuts, coffee offerings on a snowy day, dessert drop-offs, last minute babysitting solutions, advice, laughter and the occasional tears. We've sought to provide support for each other after births and deaths and weddings and illness and Hard Days. And yes, we share cups of sugar too.

.....


A photo posted by Kaley Ehret (@kaleyehret) on

Prompt: Salt and light 

The way of being salt and light is a role (a part and position) that Christians are called to in the world.  It is a role that requires us to take up a place in our world, at work, at school, and in the neighborhood.  Christians are called to imagine another world, and to do so by living amid the divisiveness, alienation, suffering, and violence, as well as the good things, the loves and hopes of where we live now.... However, we are called to make a home that is not established on our own authority and perfection, but instead is set on the foundation of repentance, forgiveness, mutual care and correction, and reconciliation. 
David Matzko McCarthy

Wes and I often talk about the "Upside-Down Way of Christ". This idea that "the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood" embodies the significance that Jesus places on presence and community rather than power and distance. Our desire as a family is to create space for what matters to Jesus and to teach our children to do the same. We find that this often looks like putting less emphasis on accomplishing "stuff", and more emphasis on simply being available to people and in tune to the heartbeat of our community. It's counter-intuitive to many of our society's standards for productivity and accomplishment, but we think it's how Jesus lived, so we want to do the same. We don't always get it right, but when we do slow down and purposefully connect, we never regret it.

.....


Prompt: Liked so much as this place
Ma hummed softly to herself while the iron smoothed all the wrinkles out of the little dresses. All around them, to the very edge of the world, there was nothing but grasses waving in the wind. Far overhead, a few white puffs of cloud sailed in the thin blue air. Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. Grasshoppers' rasping quivered up from all the immense prairie. A buzzing came faintly from all the trees in the creek bottoms. But all these sounds made a great, warm, happy silence. Laura had never seen a place she liked so much as this place.
Laura Ingalls Wilder  
Little House on the Prairie

We are so grateful for this place we call home and these people we call our neighbors. There is, indeed, no place like home.

.....

A photo posted by Kaley Ehret (@kaleyehret) on


Wes and Kaley have found a home in Telford, PA with their three boys Griffin, Lincoln and Cade. When Wes isn't youth pastoring and Kaley isn't blogging, they spend their days dodging Nerf bullets, trying to make people think they are funny, and discussing the mysteries of life together over Trader Joe's coffee.
......


What about your neighborhood?

  • Do you live in a neighborhood where neighbors naturally get to know each other?  If so, what are some of the things they do to make that happen?
  • Are there any cultural practices in place so that your neighbors are able to get to know each other?  (associations, community centers, annual block parties, newsletters)  
  • What are some ways your neighborhood is generous to each other?  Put another way, what are some of ways your neighborhood naturally loves and honors others? 
  • In what ways have you been or do you hope to be salt and light in your neighborhood?
  • In your own neighborhood, when do you have the sense that you’ve “never seen a place you liked as much as this place”?  What does it sound and look like in those moments?  Where are you walking when you feel this way?



      .....

      ** Each of guest posts in the WALKING EPIPHANY series selected a few prompts from an overflowing folder of quotations I've saved from the Daily Asterisk.  Thank you,  *culture is not optional for all of your good work. **


      Thursday, February 04, 2016

      WALKING EPIPHANY in inner city Rochester, NY: neighborhood notes from Suzanne Day

      Welcome to the second annual WALKING EPIPHANY series of guest posts! I've asked a few friends who live around the world to take a walk through their neighborhoods, and share some of what they see through photos, videos and words. Each one has selected from a variety of thoughtful prompts to consider the ways the Light has moved into their neighborhoods. Will you join us?


      Read here for a brief description of the liturgical season of Epiphany. See the 2015 WALKING EPIPHANY posts hereAlso, don't miss the opportunity to engage with thought-provoking questions for your own neighborhood, listed at the end of this post.


      -----------------------------------

      Suzanne Day
      Rochester, NY

      Prompt: Homegrown economy

      Losing local businesses to national chains stores is by no means inevitable. Indeed, the growth of chain stores has been aided in no small part by public policy. Land use rules have all too often ignored the needs of communities and undermined the stability of existing business districts. Development incentives frequently favor national corporations over locally owned businesses. Increasing numbers of communities are rewriting the rules around a different set of priorities that encourage a homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses.... Active decision making at the local level and a creative approach to zoning can provide a powerful arsenal for defending community. 

      Stacy Mitchell


      Rochester's Public Market is a hub for local produce and other goods. It's open four days a week all year round, which is impressive, in my mind, considering that Rochester is usually snowy and windy for a good part of the year. It's one of my favorite places to be on Saturday mornings and I enjoy taking all of my out-of-town guests. The Rochester Public Market brings people from all walks of life and is always a bustling center for culture, fresh seasonal produce and lots of other local goodness.


      .....

      Prompt: Salt and light

      The way of being salt and light is a role (a part and position) that Christians are called to in the world.  It is a role that requires us to take up a place in our world, at work, at school, and in the neighborhood.  Christians are called to imagine another world, and to do so by living amid the divisiveness, alienation, suffering, and violence, as well as the good things, the loves and hopes of where we live now.... However, we are called to make a home that is not established on our own authority and perfection, but instead is set on the foundation of repentance, forgiveness, mutual care and correction, and reconciliation.

      David Matzko McCarthy

      My inner-city church is located in the middle of a zip code that frequently makes the charts for having the highest rates of child poverty, largest number of young single mothers and lowest graduation rates. The need for the light of Christ is often tangible on the streets of our community. Our vision is to build champions through a Gospel revolution that brings transformation to our family, community, city and world.


      .....


      Prompt: We need art

      We need art, in the arrangements of cities as well as in the other realms of life, to help explain life to us, to show us meanings, to illuminate the relationship between the life that each of us embodies and the life outside us. We need art most, perhaps, to reassure us of our own humanity. 

      Jane Jacobs


      Rochester is no stranger to the art scene. In recent years, an organization called Wall Therapy, has added color and life to the city through a number of murals (http://www.wall-therapy.com/about-wall-therapy/). Closer to home, my church has recently launched a team to focus on the visual arts. This was our first project, made to be part of the Christmas Eve service: https://youtu.be/hPTVZryOruk. As the leader of this group, it's my desire that art becomes a tool that is used to share the stories of our multi-cultural, multi-generational church family and testimonies of God's goodness and grace.

      .....

      Prompt: Imaginative act

      What I see behind my eyes changes what I see in front of them; my imagination shapes my perception so that I must look not once but twice at the world to see it whole. Walking down the street, I see a wild-looking character sitting on the steps of the library. His gray hair is matted. His dense beard covers the slogan on his grimy T-shirt. His small darting eyes are as volatile as a hawk's. I look once and think "drifter." I look twice and think "John the Baptist," and in that imaginative act my relationship to the man is changed.

      Barbara Brown Taylor

      Sitting right next door to my church home is a building that has been a site where evil, quite literally, has lived. While the previous owner has been arrested and found guilty of being involved with ISIS(http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2015/12/17/alleged-terrorist-scheduled-plea-mufid-elfgeeh/77471906/), we are dreaming of what could be built from these ashes; a local business that could help sustain my church financially and also provide job experience for youth in the community, or a resource center that provides practical and spiritual needs for the people in our community.

      .....



      Prompt: Liked so much as this place

      Ma hummed softly to herself while the iron smoothed all the wrinkles out of the little dresses. All around them, to the very edge of the world, there was nothing but grasses waving in the wind. Far overhead, a few white puffs of cloud sailed in the thin blue air. Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. Grasshoppers' rasping quivered up from all the immense prairie. A buzzing came faintly from all the trees in the creek bottoms. But all these sounds made a great, warm, happy silence. Laura had never seen a place she liked so much as this place.

      Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie

      Behind my church building is also a large lot of land that we own. This patch of green in the middle of the city is never without a collection of trash -- often including needles and other hazardous items. There are always paths worn from many of our neighbors seeking short cuts from point A to point B. This humble plot of land will be the site of my wedding this summer. I could think of nothing more perfect than to be pledging my heart to the man I love in this place and with these people who are home to me.

      .....



      Suzanne Day lives in Rochester, NY where she has found a home in her church family and enjoys many different facets of creativity. Suzanne works in online advertising, does some freelance design and photography, and is dreaming of a future where creativity can intersect with ministry and career. Serving at Heart & Soul Community Church, traveling, and wedding marriage planning with her fiancé, Agustin, are all things that currently what fill her days.
      ......


      What about your neighborhood?

      • Are there are any signs of a "homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses" in your neighborhood?  
      • In what ways have you been or do you hope to be salt and light in your neighborhood?
      • Does your neighborhood boast any community artwork (maybe even monuments or historical markers)?  What's the story it tells?  
      • How about any artfully imaginative houses, yards or places of business in your neighborhood?
      • Give us a tour of your neighborhood as an "imaginative act" the way Barbara Brown Taylor describes her encounter with the wild-looking character sitting on the steps of the library.
      • In your own neighborhood, when do you have the sense that you’ve “never seen a place you liked as much as this place”?  What does it sound and look like in those moments?  Where are you walking when you feel this way?



          .....

          ** Each of guest posts in the WALKING EPIPHANY series selected a few prompts from an overflowing folder of quotations I've saved from the Daily Asterisk.  Thank you,  *culture is not optional for all of your good work. **


          Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...