I called my friend “B” on the way to the concert that night, and he continued to express his frustration with Grace and with Urban Ministry, blaming us in part for his problems. He said that many of our neighbors in Glenwood share that sentiment, though I have not heard it yet. And as I listened, I was not completely sure how to respond. There was no defensiveness welling up in me, thankfully, but as I listened, I realized that in some ways, my church and I were being called out.
We have been in Glenwood for years now, but I don’t think that we are making effective, systemic changes which are affecting our neighborhood. We do have ministries of mercy (emergency financial assistance, a weekly dinner for the poor and homeless, a tutoring program and dance program for kids), but thinking systemically with our dollars and our programs hasn’t happened. Again, this is not a rant, but rather an honest assessment. In Hebrew, the word for justice can also be translated mercy and healing and righteousness. All of those things are wrapped up together in one, and to do one without the other is incomplete. Yes, do merciful things, but don’t stop there – move to justice as well. In fact, I see secular organizations like The Hive making more of a dent in Glenwood than our church is, and in a relatively short time. At this time I am not sure how to move to a more holistic and systemic strategy for Glenwood. I have some thoughts – more on that later.
Sometimes I feel stuck in the middle in my position at church. There are some who believe that we are not doing enough for the poor, who critique some of the ways that we deal with the homeless who come to us for help. Then there are those who think we do too much and enable the poor to be vagrants. And in the middle, I just want to be liked, to be told that we are doing an OK job. I also want to reach people for Christ – I don’t want our ministry to the poor to be a hindrance for my friend B in knowing Jesus. I don’t want to hinder the poor who don’t know Christ because of something we don’t do for them.
In reality, my audience is no person, no critic. My audience is Christ, and I do sense that He is calling us (