Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Aiming For Alliance

The trees, the trees, just holding on
to the old, holy ways.

Mary Oliver

At the beginning of October, we found ourselves in our native California, from San Diego to Santa Barbara, celebrating two weddings and spending time with family and friends. On the way back to Detroit, Lindsay traveled to Minneapolis to join Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries at a conference they co-sponsored with Church of All Nations: Identity, Theology & Place: Re-Inhabiting the Mississippi River Watershed (click here for all the talks in audio). She was commissioned to set-up and organize the BCM resource table, but got to spend most of the time re-connecting with old friends…and making new ones. Tom touched down in Detroit and, the next day, joined up with the St. Peter's inaugural Fall retreat about 75 miles north.

As we settle back into the day-to-day rhythm of Detroit this month, we are reminded of our vocation: what led us to re-locate to this context more than a year ago. Ched Myers, who has inspired us more than any in this journey, put it like this in an article he wrote almost 15 years ago:

…to live and work in proximity to disenfranchised people not primarily in order to "help," as in the old missionary model, but in order to view the world from that space...

The longer we are rooted in such neighborhoods the more the issues so familiar to the poor become our own. Our work then moves from "aid" to "alliance," from sympathy to solidarity.

This work is more about listening and learning than lending a hand (although that comes in to play too!). We continue to be compelled that the massive poverty we witness in Detroit does not come from laziness or addiction or government aid dependency, but because systems of politics, economics, education, transportation, housing and infrastructure are unjust. Society has the resources to ensure that all have food, water, housing and the same brand of education that we received. Vast wealth inequality does not just happen. Policy creates it.

On the other hand, we continue to be inspired and energized by the resolve of overlapping communities of faith and conscience determined to resist these powerful trends.

Here are some images of work and play over the past 30 days:

Some time in the garden at Casa Anna Schultz in Oak View with Elaine Enns (Lindsay's knee pads were definitely inspired by her father):

Lindsay got to spend some Time with Grace Schafer, a freshman at UCLA. Lindsay was an assistant cross country coach and Grace was one of the top distance runners in the state during her time in high school. No doubt, their relationship goes much deeper than running!

Introducing Mr. & Mrs. Pete & Hillary Winningham! Pete and Hillary came out to Detroit in the Spring for a 48-hour, 7-session pre-marital counseling intensive with Lindsay.

Tom joined some of the St. Peter's crew on a run through rural Almont, Michigan while on retreat.

We joined some city retirees, community organizers and pastors in a demonstration in front of the Detroit Institute of the Arts. We were protesting the city's celebration of Jones Day, the law firm of Kevyn Orr who was appointed by the governor to be the emergency manager of Detroit (stripping all elected officials of power) during the bankruptcy proceedings. Orr resigned his position at the firm and then hired them to represent "the city" for $53 million in taxpayer dollars. Many longtime city workers had significant deductions in their pensions.

We are looking to revamp our #WheresHomrichWednesday campaign. Homrich is the wrecking company contracted by the city to shut-off the water of low-income residents who cannot afford it (here's a piece that Tom wrote for the RadicalDiscipleship blog).

Here's a sample of some of the awkward "comeback of Detroit" art in downtown and Midtown. Most of the paintings are of young white folks (odd in a city with an 83% black population).

We joined some community organizers in the nearby city of Highland Park, who have their own water woes spurred on by governor-appointed emergency (mis)management. 80% of the black population in Michigan live in cities that have had state-appointed emergency management. We are finding it typical for the state to takeover cities and them blame the black population for what happens after the fact (a prime example is what has happened to Detroit Public Schools).

Trees are bursting with flavor all over the city:

Send out prayers for us, as Halloween approaches. Arsons have gone down in recent years due to organized vigilance, but there were still almost 100 fires in the city last year! Indeed, there are haunted houses everywhere.

We had a French journalist join us on water deliveries during the summer. The article was published here. If you can read French, tell us what it says.

No doubt, Detroiters will keep fighting for justice. They are the children of Joe Louis:

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