The Urban Grind

Changing Colors - Changing Communities


ONE YEAR AGO I walked into the South Chattanooga Rec Center arms piled high with retractable banners, boxes of stickers, info cards, and candy.

It was National Night Out - the first community event that Bridge City Community was participating in. We were brand new. I was still a stranger to the center and it's staff. I didn't know the throngs of people moving past me in a blurred sea of unfamiliarity. No one knew Bridge City Community, or what transformation we dreamed of experiencing in south Chattanooga. A handful of people politely paused to ask who we were, why we were there, and if they could have some candy. I remember the scratchiness of muffled music coming from the gym, a dude playing gospel songs with spoons, and the brief appearance of the newly elected district councilman. I wondered what would become of this ambitious effort to plant a church on the southside... if it was even possible. That night, the vision of acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly seemed like a humiliating, not humbling, dream.

Three days from now, on Tuesday night, National Night Out (2015) will kickoff at the South Chattanooga Center again. Once again I will make my way into the hallways of the center to setup a table with information about Bridge City. However, this year is different. As the leaves begin changing colors and the wind hustles them across the cracked and bumpy asphalt of Alton Park we are beginning to see changes in the community. They aren't massive transformations and movements of established oaks, just the small changes of transforming leaves blowing in the breathe of God.

The picture above is a mural on the wall of the reading room in the South Chattanooga Rec Center. I never noticed it before. Just this week that giant, creepy elephant caught my attention. Staring at me with that odd grin he spoke a simple, but power truth to me... about Bridge City. "Unless someone cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not." Thank you for that encouragement Mr. Elephant. My eyes scanned across the wall and stopped: "It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become."

We could have packed up those banners, stickers, and cards last year deciding to humbly depart the southside, tails tucked, white flag waiving in the cool fall breeze. We could've been despondent over the enormity of systemic poverty, violence, economic & educational disparity. We could've walked way from what it was - what it is... However, the same Breathe that blows the leaves off the trees and across the streets is breathing change through Bridge City, reminding me, not of what it is, but what is has become - a neighborhood church proclaiming the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of reconciliation and peace... a kingdom of change.

So we celebrate the anniversary of our introduction to the community. We celebrate who we are and what we continue to become for our neighbors. We celebrate because we care an awful lot and pray things will continue to get better.

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