last nite i was invited by some new friends we’ve made here to join the Oakland City Watch team in a walk they do around the neighborhood [we live on 61st Ave and we walked around the streets closer to 90th so not crazy far away] that has three messages for the people of the community:
# We care!
# We want to see an end to violence, especially gun violence!
# How can we help you?
so a roomful of maybe 40 to 50 people of all shapes and sizes [although apart from one grade seven boy i felt like the next youngest there so a bunch of 30 years and older people mostly] – black, white, hispanic, korean – from a variety of different churches, put on these white windbreaker identification jackets and armed with fliers that explained to anyone who asked what we were about, we walked the streets for maybe an hour, waving at cars who responded to the “Honk if you want an end to gun violence” signs and engaging with anyone who was interested as we walked past them. No specific message except that of unity and peace in the neighborhood and that we were hoping merely by our presence to make a difference [apparently since they started these walks 6 months ago, murders have decreased in the areas they have walked through]
this brief video on You Tube gives a glimpse into the heart behind the walk and introduces some of the hardcore leaders [mostly pastors from different churches] who are organising this thing.
“we want it to be tangible”
“more than just words from a tv from a pulpit”
“we want to be persistent. this is something we’re doing every week not just for one night”
“we don’t want to fight against the young men but against the violence itself”
as i walked the streets last nite, when i wasn’t engaging in incredibly life-giving conversation with this big African American ex-pastor called Ben who heads up the team [and who i found out lives a street away from me, so hoping for deeper connection there] and our new friend, Matt, i was thinking of Kensington where we stayed in Philly and how something like this could work so well there [and of my friend Derrick Gregory who i have already been in conversation with about the possibility of him thinking more through the possibilities it holds]
as i write this i think of my friends Sheralyn and Sammi who live in Woodstock in Cape Town and of the Pedersens and others who are doing a kind of organic church in the fringes of the city and how something like this might look for them.
i think of areas of huge gangsterism and violence like mannenberg and hanover park and wonder if the church there got mobilised to start doing something similar.
and am brought back to the conversation of stability i had with Ben and those conversations which i’ve been having with tbV for the last two years inspired by the monks of the Benedictine monastery we visited while staying at the Simple Way, and even the idea of incarnation [living amongst the people you are working with and ministering to] fostered by the Simple Way and my time in Kayamandi
i read a quote this week that said something like church is not the place you go to, but the place you go out from and that kind of feels like the strong surgings that i have within me right now [not really anything new, just a new flame being lit on this particular fire] and a loud powerful shout to the church of Cape Town [yes, you Common Ground and Christ Church Kenilworth and 100 others] to take seriously the need for the church to be outside of the building and on the streets if we are going to make any discernible difference at all to the state of things back home.
or wherever you are reading this. this idea is so ridiculously simply and just needs a small group of people to put their hands up and go, ‘hey, that’s something practical we can do right here.’