Praying for our cities: What future do we dream? A garden? A city? Both?

Envisioning community as garden Our Summer Series of Guest Writers continues with the Rev. Daniel Buttry, exploring the values behind our prayers for cities. Here are his stories: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.


What comes to your mind when you pray for the future? Where would you like us all to end up? A garden? Or a city? Or—how about both? Here’s what I’m envisioning …
    Back in the 1960’s the band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sang about getting “back to the garden.” There was a stream of the hippie movement that headed to rural areas and formed communes, many of which failed to achieve the ideal of their initial dreams.
    The Abrahamic faiths trace human beginnings to a garden, the Garden of Eden. Life was pure, good and righteous there before it was marred by evil. Do we want to get back to the garden?
    Christian views of the future in the New Testament point to an urban image: The New Jerusalem. We don’t end up in the garden, but rather in the city. Anyone going to Jerusalem today knows how far the present reality is from the future dream with division and armed forces evident everywhere. My city of Detroit is no closer with so many urban problems that we have become the poster child for what is wrong in American cities.
    Do you want to get as far as you can from the city? Do you want a garden or a city in your future?
    Perhaps both. My wife Sharon and I are urban gardeners. We are part of one of the many community gardens in our city. In our garden we each have our own plot (Sharon and I have two 4-foot-by-4-foot plots), then we share some big plots. Our tomatoes, lettuces and squash are shared. We’ve also grown produce to share with the local food bank across the street from our garden. Sharon has brought some of the local children to the garden to tend the plants and learn how we get our food.
    How do you bring the “garden” and the “city” together? What actions do you take, small or large, to bring a healing future into the present?
    It’s been a wonderful week for me to share the “Our Values” columns with you—I’ve heard from many readers besides those who leave comments. I’d like to add this “P.S.” to these articles:

    On Monday I spoke about greeting our local grocers in Arabic. I stopped in and was asked where I learned Arabic. That opened up a wonderful conversation about my global peacemaking work, especially the trips to Lebanon where I’ve worked in Christian/Muslim peace projects. We talked about many things besides fruits and vegetables! Who knows what respectful, humanizing encounters might open up?!
    Yesterday I met a friend who was picking up trash in an empty lot next to the local corner store. A gaggle of kids came over, and he invited them to help, which they eagerly did. A simple act became a spontaneous neighborhood clean-up, and my friend got to know some of the neighborhood kids. 

    How will you follow up to our ideas about living out our prayers?

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