Friday, February 19, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 19

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. The Location
3. The size (population)
4. The scale
5. Creativity and the arts
6. The buildings
7. The nature

8. The film industry
9. The markets and restaurants
10. The trails, paths, and running routes
11. Gore Park
12. The climate
13. The safety
14. The landscapes and views
15. The ability to live modestly
16. The sports teams
17. The schools
18. The entertainment options

19. The churches (and other faith groups)

I'm going to speak from my own experience here - with my church, and the church as a whole - other faith groups in this city are doing amazing things.

One of the most encouraging little things when I moved here was to see a pastor from another downtown church biking past me on his way to work. I just thought "dude, we have urban pastors here! Other pastors get it!" Literally, that's what was crossing my mind.

On Feb 14, the church I attend and work at hosted "A Piece of Common Ground" dinner with our Turkish Muslim friends. In lieu of the video I was hoping to get, Patti's post on this speaks volumes. The Beam Centre is quite something, and I really enjoyed the evening.

The media company near us filmed a commercial in our building near that time.
Community groups that have been using various parts of the church space.
Hundreds of free income tax returns for low-income residents will start up again soon.

And that's only a few of the minor things one church in one place in the city is doing.

One case study identified the five things churches in Hamilton can do to improve the city are:
1) grow community
2) promote community service
3) attract people to live downtown
4) draw private investment
5) add beauty to the physical appearances of community

A lot of churches do that well here.

There's some churches that highly value and beautifully represent great architecture.
There's churches here that encourage and attract people to live downtown.
There's churches that do incredible work in the community.

And to be fair, there's churches that sit there all the time and have very little connection with the week or the work of everyday folks.

There was also the moment not long after I moved here when my sister asked "oh... downtown? You didn't end up at _____________that's getting investigated and having charitable status revoked and whose staff are buying $700 purses with the funds?"

I'm glad that type of place is the rare exception. Churches in this city do incredible work! And I can only scratch the surface by speaking of L'Arche and Philpott and Salvation Army and FRWY and Hughson St. and Crossfire and Micah House and even Good Shepherd or our entire Catholic school system.. but that's a tiny start.

And it's so connected here.... the True City network that has churches of all types in it is also something I sorely missed in other cities... it's great to know the leaders of churches in this city have a heart for people - but not on just one or two "hot-button" issues. They want to see the entire city succeed.

Being able to meet with other youth pastors - of all types of churches - has been so encouraging. Even more encouraging is hearing how pro-city a lot of them are - from transit to living downtown to buying local.

Green initiatives are also common in a lot of places, though I freely admit many churches still find that tough. The imagination is great though... where else but in car-dependent Hamilton would you hear of "Worship without your car" initiatives? But again.. it's awesome!

This is personal for me. I love cities and I love Jesus. And maybe it's hard to tell, when the church has for years moved to cheap land around cities... but Christianity is historically quite comfortable in cities.

Many have noted... The Bible starts in a garden and ends in a city.

Even through exile, the Hebrews were exhorted to pray for the good of the city even as they were captives there. The city of Jerusalem stands central to much of the Old Testament. Some of my favorite books in the Bible are the letters to the New Testament churches... some are veyr minor places, many were larger centers such as Rome and Ephesus and Corinth.

I'm also very comfortable with the reality in the New Testament that groups of believers, "churches," had no power - certainly not in a political sense. They pointed to God as the source of individually transformed lives, and a calling to belong in community. From those transformed lives is where change came.

All differences in time period and political reality aside, that translates very well to today. Churches point to God as the source of individually transformed lives, and a calling to belong in community. And I thank God there are so many churches in this city who are pointing to God and offering community... and bringing change to those around them.

I see it every week. In my church and others. I hear - and see - that change and community.

Every week, financial and recovery groups meet.
I see those who aren't able to work - or fit into normal society - find a safe place and a listening ear.
Part of my job is teaching teens life skills about topics like sex and money (comprehensively, with lots of discussion and research - not simplistically).
People get counselling to work through issues, prepare for transitions, or improve relationships - by people who are trained in and know those areas.
I see people prepare food together
I see people who struggled in education get into college - and graduate, and find jobs.
I see people who are generations apart having a conversation.
I see those who aren't able to go to school find jobs and encouragement.
I see those deeply hurting start to heal... and grow into confident, alive people.
I see inner, quiet, deep change working itself outward.
I see people able to show emotion for the first time in decades.
I see families whose problems aren't fixed magically... but who are starting to heal.
I see relationships that were cut off for years being returned.

In short... I see individual lives transformed, and people finding community and being part of their city. And I love it.

I love the churches in Hamilton. And that's another reason I love Hamilton.

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