When one of the pastors of Northminster Presbyterian, Nancy Ross Zimmerman first called me about the job, I thought, “Cincinnati? We belong further west than that.” But as the friendship unfolded they were just the kind of place Kelley and I had been looking for. So, many Skype calls, conference calls, and a weekend family visit later we decided Cincinnati was where we were being pointed to next.Read More
Neighbors aren't targets, or are they? Many churches have "started" or "grown" in the past 30 years by carefully studying marketers and doing demographic research determining their "target." And yet targeting is a pretty scary notion in our neck of the 'hood.
In Georgia, it is estimated that 200-300 children are targeted for sexual exploitation a month, and our neighborhood includes two of the city's primary hot-spots. 66% of the houses in our zip code were in foreclosure before the crash because elderly homeowners were targeted by mortgage fraud schemes. Some wayward kids in our area who have learned how to hotwire GM cars are targeting GM and Chryslers to break into. And then one of our neighbors, a friend of our family and our lawn-guy, was entrapped in a GBI drug sting, because of he was "such an easy target."
Last week members of the Georgia House of Representatives heard a bill (HB 582) that would amend the current law to exempt minors paid for sex from being targeted by prosecutors as adults. As Georgia law currently stands, a girl or boy who is pimped out to a "customer" (aka a "John") by their drug dealer is the easiest target for law enforcement. They are afraid, they will not seek legal counsel, and they are cheap to prosecute. The customers, men driving past our house to pick up girls in cars with plates from places miles away like Cobb or Gwinnett county, are difficult to prosecute. Its easiest to "target supply", even while demand increases. Pimps are deft at hiding behind legal loop holes. The typical pimp befriends a runaway and builds a romance that introduces hard drugs to the child. Within a few months that kid is "owned" by their addiction, and the dealer can then bring her or him to a brothel or street where they can earn money for drugs.
One of the participants in Neighbors Abbey, Anne Chance, has taken leadership in a citywide coalition called StreetGRACE built to organize churches to combat this cycle of enslavement. She has invented a prayer practice called "C U @ 2" (look it up on facebook) where members around the world stop, wherever they are, at 2pm to pray about this issue. Last Tuesday, when the Georgia House of Reps was hosting a hearing on HB 582, she organized a prayer vigil in our neighborhood. Now a notion of "Prayer Vigil" is not the best "marketing" for those of us hoping to "attract" people to Neighbors Abbey. But this was not your everyday vigil. This was a chance for folks to bring the tension of our everyday urban activist experience into a quiet, reflective place of transformation.
There was ambient music. Stations were set up to guide prayer. There was a projector in one corner juxtaposing images of the city with the beatitudes. There were candles and bibles and prayer books. There was a station for body prayer, where attendees were guided through a series of postures that would "embody" our hope for courage for the victims, advocates and law enforcement. There was a map where pray-ers would place a sticker indicating where they lived and note "who is my neighbor" by reflecting on the story of the Good Samaritan and their proximity to the struggle of these children and advocates addressing this struggle. And there was a station for the contemplative person to choose five beads representing five distinct groups to remember in prayer (this is the CU@2 prayer): the victims, the coalition of advocates, the perpetrators, law enforcement, and our immediate neighborhood. Stringing these five beads next to each other to make a bracelet I've taken that prayer with me, and I am struck that God is targeting all of these groups- seeking all of us, weaving us together, and sending healing, hope and renewal for any and all.
So I guess Neighbors Abbey does have a target. We want to join God's dreams of healing and restoration for all; and week-to-week we are targeted again by God's love, and our own dreams are re-formed toward God's larger purpose in Jesus Christ.
|'Thank you to the churches, individuals, and foundatoins who are helping get this off the ground by joining us in this effort to join God's mission in the city!
We are at $47,125 in gifts, grants and pledges for our annual budget of $55,500. That only leaves $8,375 for the remainder of our fiscal year ending in October.
Or mail a check to
Neighbors Abbey c/o Presbytery of Greater Atlanta 1024 Ponce de Leon Ave Atlanta, GA 30306-4216
So, Tom Livengood and folks at The Living Room took the initiative to help people connect to their neighbor in Atlanta. They started by listing agencies they knew of in the atlanta area on a google map. Trey Tucker with Roov.com designed artwork for a re:connect page. And then one of the TLR peeps, Amy Anderson, built this site to facilitate the google map and to introduce folks to Roov.com. "Thank you, Tom, Trey, Amy and others."
The Re:CONNECT weekend was an invention of Nate Ledbetter, Melvine Bray, and Leroy Barber and myself. We wanted folks in Atlanta to meet other people doing justice and to learn about justice/social community work. The weekend rocked! We had a panel discussion on Friday night and the panelists included (I'll add more as I have their blogs):
Rusty Prichard : Evangelical Environmental Network
Mark Anthony: Pastor, Jesus for Justice
Carlos: Mentoring and Public Speaking
Daniel Hombrich: INnocence Atlanta
Nate Ledbetter: Charis Housing
Deborah: Mothers and children
Chris Capehard: ROOV.com
They described their work and they answered questions including:
- How do others’ passions contribute to the reach and focus of your ministry?
- How do you meet Jesus in doing your work?
- What has your work taught you about engaging civil government?
- How do local neighbors and the contexts of individual neighborhoods play a roll in the kind of ministry you do?
- How do church congregations help or hinder the work you feel called to?
The next night we had Shane Claiborn, Chris Haw, and Scott and Jay from The Psalters come and perform "Jesus for President." It was an unbelievable synthesis of narative theology, liberation theology, political imagination, and John Howard Yoder with some deep country Tennessee thrown in. I felt like I was simultaniously at a Tom Wait's show, a Toni Morrison poetry reading, Walter Bruggemann seminary class, and post modern theatre. My friends Ryan and Holly Sharp also known as the Cobalt Season, were the artists behind the book design and the multimedia support- they nailed it!
The whole weekend was a huge success. The AJC wrote about it, we had folks from Auburn and Columbia, SC. And we had a huge crew of volunteers from the Atlanta Emergent Cohort, Marietta Presbyterian Church, and Mission Year.
If you're from the ATL go to Re-CONNECT.us and keep the movement going!