Where we dwell

I spent Sunday’s worship service helping out in the nursery. At one point, we headed outside to let the kids play on the playground and I stayed in the covered area with Elijah. It was an unusual worship service that focused on prayer, and a few youth had opted to hang out in the back with their skateboards instead of participating. I was sitting there with my baby when I saw a group of three youth come around from the other side of the building carrying skateboards and I realized that they must be in the practice of hopping the fence to skate behind the school.

We didn’t talk much. I mostly enjoyed watching them practice different jumps, and our two boys joined in with what they were doing. The whole skateboarding culture here still cracks me up. It brings back too many of my own memories of junior high.

As I watched them skate, I thought about our friends who joined our church family as a result of meeting us in the park where we met and they slept. Warm coffee and good food shared opened the door to meaningful relationships: with us and with Jesus. I was bummed when I saw that we didn’t have any food this week after the service because I wanted to invite these boys in for something to eat.

There is something good about being a sojourning church. There is something Acts-like in moving about, colliding with people in their everyday pursuits. Mark Galli wrote an interesting post on the importance of a building from his Anglican perspective. He writes:

Every Anglican parish is an icon of Israel, a people with a unique call from God to not wander but to settle down, not to live in exile in strange places, but to gather together on a certain piece of land where Jesus will take on flesh and dwell among them, a place that will become holy.

When I consider Church of the Redeemer, and the community that makes us, it makes sense that we wander: that our “space” speaks of what it means to be aliens; that we sit outside a land of milk and honey and still we choose to worship.

17 thoughts on “Where we dwell”

  1. I’m not sure exactly what you’re getting at, to be honest. It could be the fact that I’m not understanding your use of “sojourning church.” Could you help me understand what you mean?

  2. “I saw a group of three youth come around from the other side of the building carrying skateboards and I realized that they must be in the practice of hopping the fence to skate behind the school.” This is Trespassing, a crime.
    I think this was a learning moment for your community and you did not take advantage of it.
    Although it may appear to be an innocent act of youth, it is a stepping stone for other criminal activities, especially in a community where there is, as you have expressed, little food, support, ongoing crime, harassment & etc.

    Would you allow your kids to hop a fence to play behind the school? If they did would you want a responsible adult to correct them? Is this attitude building a strong community or encouraging lack of respect for rules and others property.

    Don’t just feed their bodies feed their minds.

  3. Colby,

    Yeah, sorry. I had just read Mark Galli’s post (which I quoted a very small portion) where he described the Anglican call to buy land and build buildings. He contrasted that with what he called also worthy callings for other churches that instead are homeless, or sojourning.

    So when I say that we are a sojourning church, I guess I was reflecting on the fact that we have had five different meeting spaces, mostly public spaces like schools and parks, in the five years that we have held weekly worship services for our community. Before that our corporate life existed in scattered homes.

    So, the sojourner image is one of not owning land; of moving about; of never quite having a place to rest our head.

    Does that help?

  4. Hello

    I occasionally flip through your blog. I am at a cross road in my life. You make me think about the truth.

  5. Mary,

    Perhaps.

    Our friends who slept in the park were violating the rules there as well.

    But you are right to not disregard what young people are learning from the adults around them.

  6. It’s not a perhaps. But a definite yes.

    It is sad that we do not all have a place to rest our selves. There are other options; shelters or folks like yourself who can open their doors (church or home) to those in need.

    Hence, they avoid another encounter with the law. I also know that LAPD is less likely to enforce a sleeping in the park violation (especially in your neighborhood) than the School Police is to ignore trespassing on School District property.

    Gandhi said it best.

    “Be the change you wish in the world”

  7. It’s starting to make sense.

    Firstly, let me address Mary: there are fallacies. One fallacy in writing/talking is called “slippery slope.” To suggest that kids will become criminals simply for jumping the fence to ride their skateboards on school grounds is absurd. There is nothing to prove this will push them to high crimes. I do not see any mention of destruction of property in this post…

    Back to the blog: it seems to be you’re suggesting that a sojourning church, one that moves around, is one that bumps into people the most. Quite possibly. What I disagree with is your comment about wanting to invite the boys in but having no food to do so. I’d think that you would know, as a sojourning church, that people aren’t looking for food to eat. People are looking for relationships. For conversations that are real.

    Lastly, I’m struggling to understand your ‘milk and honey’ comment. Are you saying that you haven’t found this land because you haven’t found a concrete place to meet – because you keep moving? I think the land of milk and honey is here and now. Consider what Jesus has done for us (so much more than the crucifixion). Again, all I’ve spoken is my opinion and thoughts.

    Thanks for the time!

  8. Colby,

    The food is exactly that: one way of practicing hospitality; of inviting them to join our family and to share a meal; To talk.

    Teenage boys and food usually go well together :)

    My milk and honey comment spoke to our physical realities in the here and now: my neighbors are not enjoying physical riches and feasts in a land that is plentiful (by Western standards at least–by global standards we are in fact the rich).

    I do think there is a day coming when my neighbors who are hungry will not be; where those who are in pain will not be; where all of us who mourn will stop.

    Jesus work is complete and yet we live in a creation that still groans for its redemption to be fully realized.

  9. Colby,

    First, I fully understand the concept of “slippery slope.” You are right I miss spoke ,hopping a school fence is not a stepping stone it is actually an criminal activity.

    “It is vital to note the distinction between crime and delinquency. Where as a crime is an act that breaks criminal code which is created by society though written law, delinquency and deviance can be acts that merely break ‘cultural law’ or norms.”

    Please note the difference.

    Trespassing is a crime. It is absurd to think because you break into school property to ride your skate board is OKAY and not crime. I assure if caught School Police is required to arrest.

    It is absurd not to teach these kids that right from wrong. It is better that Erika and her community step in than LAPD or School Police. TRUST ME!

    My slippery slope mistake is that I implied that they would become criminals. They are criminals according to the Law.

    I did not write the laws.

    P.S. Sometimes it is easier for people to have real relationships and conversations when they are not distracted with hunger.

  10. Hmmm. I think I’m in the “perhaps” camp, too.

    Truthfully, I can’t help but wonder if hopping the school fence to skate is actually part of preventing these young ones from other, more destructive habits.

    In my posh university town, students often go into school yards to skate or practice jumps or play catch. They’re not prosecuted as criminals, they’re looked on as young people finding space–some of the only safe and available public spaces–to do what kids do: play.

    I’ve even seen an officer join in the fun once in a while…though it’s true, I can’t imagine the LAPD demonstrating that kind of gentleness. But that may be a stereotype I have of the LAPD…

  11. Good Convo

    Hello I hope you don’t mind me joining in dude. I’m in my senior year at usc, a soc major and a kid from the hood. Basically, people called us poor white
    trash. The police are not kind to us.
    What other kids could dude in elite area is not what we could do in poor area even if it is as simple as hopping the school yard for some fun. I think it is totally wrong.

    Through my studies and internships (l.a. parole office) I find one of the best thing we can do for these kids is prepare them for reality especially their reality.

    I hope things change dude. Stay Strong

  12. Hello all-

    In reading some of Erika’s blog I feel that you live in fear of your community. When indeed your purpose is to reach out to your community. I think in this case you missed a great opportunity. It was not a coincidence the kids hopped that fence at that time it was a purpose. A purpose for your need to invite them into your world. Maybe it would have been easier if you had food at that moment. Or maybe you could have said you know we do not have food this time, but how about coming back next time for spirtual and flesh feeding. Maybe that was your ice breaker.

    As far as was it a crime what they did? Let me ask the question in this way. If they hopped the fence to your backyard to do some innocent skateboarding. Would you feel the same? Would you still view it as it could be worse? Would you join them? Would yo say hey you are on my property get out?

    These are my thoughts. I like to view both sides of situations. I am one from the Hood as some may say and always try to find a positive. :)

    Hope everyone has a good day.

  13. How can i resisit..

    Mary,
    I will try to create more light and not more heat, but we’ll see how i do.

    As a former Jr. High Skater, given a choice of skating in a school yard and skating on the sidewalk, where i would run a serious risk of getting shot, I’d choose the former every time. Even if there was a risk I could get kicked out.
    If we arrested everyone who committed a crime we would ALL be in jail.
    I’m not saying this to be flippant, (which if you knew me, is quite surprising.) My point is that if we were all judged by the letter of the law we wouldn’t stand a chance. It is the spirit of the law that is the important part. Should we arrest everyone who drives 56mph in a 55? Should we arrest the people that drive 50 in a 55? (I lean towards yes on the later, serously people). Back to my point; The laws/rules about being on a schools property are to protect the property and the liability of the people who own the property. If the kids aren’t doing any harm, and aren’t intentionally skating there so that if they do get hurt they can get rich off of LAUSD, then is it really something to focus on? Or maybe should we really focus on the part of the story about kids who have very few safe places to be finding a safe place to hang out with some church kids near a church.
    I’m not a biblical scholar by any means, but i think Jesus would have met them where they were at and likely not even brougt up their “trespasses”.

  14. I’m not sure why my comments have you heated. My comments were not intended to do so. My comments were merely food for thought. I hoped that they would encourage you to look outside your box.

    “If we arrested everyone who committed a crime we would ALL be in jail. My point is that if we were all judged by the letter of the law we wouldn’t stand a chance.” I agree with you. However, I am starting to wonder if you understand the community you live in.

    My point is simple, you as a white person trepassing in a tranquil neighborhood school may be overlooked. Reality, Latinos, Blacks, & other children of color living in the inner city trepassing on school property are more likely to have the law enforced (they don’t stand a chance, if caught).

    Hence, we are not all judged by the letter of the law, but some of us are!

    I think Nicole asked a good question, if skaters hopped your home fence with out permission to skate would you feel the same. Forgive me for assuming, but I believe you would reach out to them, yet I believe you would also address the issue of trespassing (entering with out permission.

    I think you missed the real message, you had an opportunity to educate, protect and “create more light” on their reality, not yours.

    I think people are in need of solutions not excuses.

    Here’s a thought, why don’t you, your church or both talk with the school principal and sponser a few hours a week to skate boarding. Hopefully, you can provide them with an option that is safer than the side walk and legal.

    “The laws/rules about being on a schools property are to protect the property and the liability of the people who own the property. If the kids aren’t doing any harm, and aren’t intentionally skating there so that if they do get hurt they can get rich off of LAUSD, then is it really something to focus on?” I am not an expert therefore, I encourage you to ask, Police Officers, Parole Officers, Social Services, Judges and those who would know better than you and I.

    Likewise I’m not a biblical scholar. Nevertheless, I think Jesus would have welcomed them, accepted them and taught them right from wrong at the same time.

    I’m not saying this to be flippant, (which if you knew me, is quite surprising.)” too.

    Finally, we can agree to disagree.

  15. Mary,

    The comment before yours was not from me–I’m not sure if you thought it was but it seemed like there could have been some confusion (one letter difference in the name).

    I love the idea of working with the community to create time and space for skateboarding. Maybe Sunday mornings? I have heard of “skate churches” before…

  16. I guess the reason that I felt heated was that it seemed that what you got out of the post was that the first thing that should have been done was to tell them they’re bad.
    And I dissagree with that.
    That’s all.
    erik

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