Monday, February 16, 2015

WALKING EPIPHANY at Community First, ATX: neighborhood notes from Steven Hebbard

Welcome to a special Epiphany series of guest posts.  I've asked a few friends who live (literally) 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?

Steven Hebbard
Community First, Austin, TX

"Community First! Village is a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas." --

Groundbreaking for Community First - August 2014

Prompt: Local ground

The likeliest path to the ultimate ground leads through my local ground. I mean the land itself, with its creeks and rivers, its weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, and all the plants and animals that share it. I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one; I cannot live a grounded life without being grounded in a place.

Scott Russell Sanders

What a mystery nature is. Here are six dreaded Cedar trees that sprouted up as nature’s first line of defense against floods and erosion. Today, a whole farm is around them built on the reception, redirection, and assumption of water, they have become nature’s superfluities. Here, we are using them as part of a Gazebo that will nearly be made entirely of nature’s gifts and recycled materials. This is the Community First Village.

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

Volunteer crew building an outdoor kitchen

Garden and harvest

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


Here is my co-worker Evan, with one of our ROADS guys. Andrew (not his real name) lives in a tent near Bolm road and comes out to create Art at our Art House and- as here- bottle openers through our Blacksmithing micro-enterprise. $13!!! What a steal. (*Tamara's note: I bought 3 of this for the guys in our family this Christmas and they were a HUGE hit.)

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

Here is Abraham, not his real name, who has made a staff with which to dance and enjoy the night. Abraham sleeps on the streets near UT. In my brief chat with him, I learned the reason the Bible contains a genealogy through the line of Joseph who was no relation to Jesus. He puzzled me. Actually a ton of wisdom and love. Just no home.

Steven Hebbard is the program director for Mobile Loaves & Fishes ROADS Micro-Enterprises.  


What about your neighborhood?

  • If you were asked to coordinate a walking or biking tour of your neighborhood, what would you include in the tour?
  • What are some ways your neighborhood is generous to each other?
  • Are there are any signs of a "homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses" in your neighborhood?  If so, tell us about them.
  • Look at 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 the quotation above. How does this change your view of the people and places in your neighborhood?

**Each of guest post 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. **

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