August 31, 2011

Inspiring Intersections

One thing we’ve learned about disasters – in addition to the fear, suffering and disruption on lives and communities – is the ability of people to pull together in powerful ways.

I learned this on September 12, 2001 when church leaders, neighbors, emergency responders, local businesses, and lots of friends came together at St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan to respond to the horrific events the day before. Not only did they provide immediate response to physical needs of safety and food, but they sustained a longer term effort providing rest, prayer, care, and renewal. We see this kind of response again and again after disasters. I’m particularly aware of it this week on the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Virginia, and Hurricane Irene.

But it shouldn’t take disasters for us to pull together and offer safety, connection, and renewal in our communities.

Recently I’ve been inspired by pictures from Portland, Oregon. An organization called City Repair set out to transform one small spot in a city: a street intersection.


By creating a community mural on the street and surrounding sidewalks, cars began to slow down, neighbors began to connect, and the community began to keep other spaces clean and safe. While the project originally met resistance from some residents and city agencies, it eventually won support of the community and convinced city leaders to create more spots like it throughout the city. 

They also created a 24-hour Tea Station (solar powered) and a kids play area where neighbors and passersby could rest and connect. What was once an isolating transportation exchange became a lively community hub.

This example inspires me to ask:  

  • How is your congregation connecting people to each other, in good times and bad?
  • Is your congregation a vibrant, restorative intersection in people’s lives?
  • Is your congregation an active part of your local village – a cornerstone for a healthy community?