Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Part of a larger sermon...

...that I may put here later. For now, this following great story comes courtesy of our pastor.

One of the things that [community organizer] Robert Linthicum reminded us of this week was that we need to reflect, reflect, reflect. For example, when we decide to take on a particular issue, before we just jump on in there head first, we need to do a power analysis. Who has the power to make a difference here? How do we engage that power? Is this issue winnable? How do we win it?

He told the most wonderful story about his church in Edgewater, which is a Chicago neighborhood, and how they realized that the local bank had quit giving home improvement loans to people in their community. A group of pastors went to talk to the secretary of the mayor about it, and they went there because she was a member of one of the churches. They told her that they thought that that bank was red-lining – refusing loans to everyone within a particular district.

The secretary said that she was horrified to even think that they would think that, and then she reached into her drawer and pulled out a file, and put it on her desk and patted it several times and told them to make themselves at home, that she needed to step out to freshen up for a few minutes. Now, that's what Johnny Ray Youngblood, a well-known organizing pastor in New York City, calls “a saint in Caesar's palace.”

Anyway, when they opened up the file, as they very quickly did, they saw that things were worse than they'd even imagined. The bank was red-lining, and the reason was that the city was planning to let the neighborhood get so bad, without anyone being able to access home improvement loans, that they would then proclaim imminent domain. And there in that file, all the plans for this were laid out. They already had drawings of the new neighborhood that would be built!

Well, they were blown away, as you can imagine, and suddenly began to realize why the police didn't respond to emergency calls, why the garbage wasn't being picked up, etc. It was all part of the plan to decimate the community.

Now, there are a lot of things that they could have done. There were a lot of different ideas floating around, but they did some serious reflection. They did a power analysis. They asked, who has the power to make a difference here? And how do we exert our power upon him or her?

This is what they did. They went in to visit the president of the bank, and they said, "We know that you are red-lining, and we want it stopped. We know that there are five people who sit on a committee that decides who gets loans and we want six people from our community, who we appoint, to be on that committee, beginning with a meeting tomorrow."

Well, the bank president hemmed and hawed and said, “No. I won't do it.”

So they rolled out a scroll, and they asked, “What do you see?”

He said, “Well, I see a list of about twenty churches and synagogues.”

And they said, “Yes. And each one of those twenty churches and synagogues has their accounts in your bank. And we have signed affidavits from each of these churches that on a certain day, at a word from us, each of them will withdraw their money from your bank.”

Oh,” he said. But that wasn't enough to make him do what they wanted.

So they rolled out the scroll a little more. “What do you see?” they asked.

The names of the churches that hold their endowments in his bank.

The names of every small business in the neighborhood.

The names of 9,000 individuals who hold their savings in his bank.

Well, guess what happened? The bank president decided that, for the good of the community, he would invite those six community members to serve on the committee, which he convened the next day. The bank began to give out loans again, and the city dropped its plans to decimate and redevelop the community. Linthicum says that to this day, Edgewater is one of the healthiest neighborhoods in Chicago.

I love that story! There are so many different things that they could have done, so many ways they could have gone. But they reflected together on what would be most effective, and then came up with a game plan that worked.

So let's spend some time in the desert with Jesus. Let's pray and reflect alone, and with each other. Let's figure out what we need to be about in order to transform our world. And then let's do it.
by pastor Cindy, who's one righteously tough chick, herself


At 6/22/05, 11:18 AM, Blogger hipchickmamma said...

thanks--just what i needed to hear. i look forward to reading your sermons, they are full of wisdom and love. thanks again!

At 6/23/05, 10:00 AM, Anonymous Lisa said...

I,too, enjoy your sermons


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