Tuesday, September 11, 2012

theology tuesday: church and the city

In 2009, I took a summer course at Vanderbilt Divinity entitled "Church and the City."  It was meant to be a bridge between what can be the insular world of academia/church politics and actual, living, breathing, hurting people.  Nashville is so great because it is full of start-up non-profits to address almost every need:  food insecurity, homeless families, immigration documentation and services, and more.  The class consisted of touring these places, meeting the people, and experiencing different ways of life than we might on the tony West Side.

Instead of a sermon today, I want to share a poem I wrote as part of my final project in the class.  The poem describes the day we met Randall Vincent at JustPeace.  He told a story that is too common in urban poverty.  I think you can gather the story from my poem.

"Randall Vincent, May 14"
Emily Reeves

Words flowing fast from the mouth of this man.
Black track-suited and sporting a smart mouth,
He bears forth on the text of the day, the
garbage made of a generation.

Two boys he compares, painting two bleak scenes -
Both grown indifferent to the plights they have
embodied.  The sins of the parents are
more than visited upon these two boys.

These boys grow into men, indelibly
marked by factors beyond their own control.
Ignorer and ignored suffering much,
The same cultural disease, but seen fresh,

Manifest as a man with no feelings.
But the one never learned how to cope with
all that society expected of
him and soon got in trouble with the cops.

Earlier than you'd think was possible -
Ten, eleven, twelve, and by thirteen he
is on the corner and not in school, in-
visibility the skill of his trade.

But he is disposable, no value
to his work except for the prison
brokers who wait for him with their teeth bared.
And this black track-suited man is talking.

And what he tells me about the boys is
sad, so sad, that my throat lumps and my eyes
squint, and my reaction is visceral.
The presence of God denied residence.

But how come nobody does anything?
We get stuck:  people versus a system.
Where do we start?  And then we do nothing
at all because we are scared of the boys.

But let us remember that the boys al-
ways become men, and people are systems.
And we cannot afford anymore to
abandon one of those boys in his need.

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