Having returned home from my week long training in community organizing with PICO, I have much to ponder. I went to the training and I'm a founding member of the Metropolitan Coalition of Congregations, a fledgling effort to organize congregations for community action in the suburbs, because I believe strongly in our calling as people of faith to engage in work that transforms the communities in which we live, and thinking from there to the ends of the earth. If I believe what I pray in the Lord's Prayer, that God's kingdom should be made present on earth as in heaven, then I should seek to live out of the prayer and that requires public engagement.
I title this post "the power of relationships" because public transformation isn't something we do alone. Martin Luther King was a powerful presence, but he was part of a much larger community of activists, most of whom drew from their faith.
So, if we are to make a difference, we need each other. Thus, there is power in relationships.
Although the training part of my recent experience was extremely helpful, what most cemented itself in my heart and mind was the power of the relationships I built, especially those relationships that crossed ethnic and cultural lines. I have a strong sense of calling to engage in ministry that crosses the divide that separates the suburbs and the city of Detroit. I want to participate in a broader transformation of public life and personal lives. I want to see political and economic change. I can't do this by myself, and as a white male, I must do this in relationship with others.
As I left yesterday morning to head for the airport, one of the last persons I spoke with was Harry, a young African American man with whom I had shared conversation both inside and outside our sessions. As we parted, he shared with me his gratitude at knowing that a white person cared about him and his community. I shared my gratitude at his friendship and support of my calling. We live in different parts of the country, but that relationship creates power to change realities. This was but one of the relationships that I was able to forge, but to do this requires that we take risks, that we put ourselves in positions that can be challenging. It will take persistence, because we will be tempted to give up. But if we are humble enough to reach out to others, then power to change the world will be at hand!