FIRST, THANKS TO READERS SENDING US PRAYERS THAT BEGIN “Open my eyes to …”
Just joining us? Jump back to Part 1 of our news coverage this week about John Philip Newell’s Praying for Peace campaign, which is launching nationwide and will culminate on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Given the international news this week about Osama bin Laden’s death, there’s not a more timely effort to foster spiritual healing! All this week we are reporting on Americans just like you praying for peace.
TODAY, ReadTheSpirit talks with five prominent metro-Detroiters in ministry, who gathered at the city’s landmark school that prepares men and women for ministry: Ecumenical Theological Seminary. We asked these five to help us open our eyes to the reality of this famous American city.
Stay tuned all week! Later, we will publish many of the “Open my eyes to …” prayers readers are sending us, but right now, please meet men and women who care passionately about opening eyes.
FIVE METRO-DETROITERS IN MINISTRY TELL US:
HERE’S A MYTH ABOUT DETROIT THAT I’D LIKE TO CLARIFY!
The Rev. Dr. Gene Blair, a United Methodist district superintendent of 72 churches north of the city within the Detroit Annual Conference: I want to clear up the misconception that people need to come here and rescue us. It’s a myth that there is no one doing vital work in the churches of Detroit. The fact is that there are churches that have been working in Detroit for generations and, through all the ups and downs in this city, they have stayed and many of those churches remain strong.
The Rev. Cathi Feldpausch, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ferndale just north of Detroit: That’s right! People don’t realize how many redemptive things are happening in Detroit. This Ecumenical Theological Seminary where we’re meeting and talking is one of the best things in this city, and not enough people know about ETS. Sure, people know about our theaters, our sports and our music in Detroit. But most people don’t see life at the grassroots, where people are taking back our city every day. I’m talking about things like the urban gardens we’re seeing so many people plant near their homes in Detroit. Many artists now are choosing to live in this city. People are working hard to strengthen their neighborhoods. But what do people think about when they hear “Detroit”? They think about the burned-out homes and vacant buildings we’ve seen in the past. I want to correct the misconception that Detroit is a ghost town. No, this is a city with life sprouting from the grassroots every day.
Karen Mason-Brown, who runs the Everyone Eats program along with her husband, Worthen. Karen and Worthen coordinate a long list of volunteers who feed more than 250 people every week on site at ETS in Detroit: People need to know that we are here by choice. I was born in Detroit and I’ve lived here all my life because I choose to be a part of this city. Too many people think that, if you live in Detroit, it’s because you can’t get out. My husband and I have had lots of choices over the years—and one of our biggest choices is living and working with the people of Detroit.
The Rev. Dr. Wilma R. Johnson, pastor of New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit: It’s a misconception that nobody cares in Detroit. People do care. I know that our church cares! Every month at our church, we feed the community—and we do that out of love for the people. As a pastor, I am determined that New Prospect will be a church that shines its light—that lets everyone know how much we care. Discovering that someone really does care—well, that starts to put the joy in your heart and the smile on your face. What do I mean when I say that we care? I mean that, when I realized there was this terrible old parking lot with trucks and cars left on it—I said that’s so ugly! It’s not good for any of us. So, we bought it and cleared away all those cars and trucks. A year ago, when someone started breaking into houses on a street near our church, I said: We will do something about this! I promised that New Prospect would provide security for that neighborhood—and we did! Those break ins stopped. We cared that much to actually provide the security. And we adopted the public school across the street from us. We donate money to the school. We run a free after-school program. We provide a free summer camp. They hold their graduations at New Prospect. Last year, we wanted to show the teachers how much we care about them, so we remodeled their teacher’s lounge. One of the brightest lights I see shining in our neighborhood is the moment school is over each day and those children come running across the street to New Prospect.
Dennis Archambault, a longtime Detroit resident, freelance journalist and public relations consultant: I’m glad you told the story of New Prospect, because people don’t realize the role that churches can play in community development. There are housing and community development corporations in Detroit that come right out of churches. There are more than 2,000 active congregations at work within these city limits. When you look at who chooses to stay in the city, you’ll often find out that they’re people connected with their churches. That’s why people choose to move to Detroit—for the city’s faith and history and its resilience. So, here’s the final myth I’d like to dispel: Many people say Detroit is unique and that’s true. Every city is unique. But, more importantly, Detroit is a truly American city. What is happening in Detroit and the way people are dealing with all the challenges of life right here—there are lessons every day in Detroit that we should share with people all across America. And, perhaps, today, that’s part of what we’re doing talking about this city that we love.
JOIN THE PRAYING FOR PEACE MOVEMENT!
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.