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 ( 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: 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(, 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. **

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