Thursday, November 29, 2007

Golden Hill - Marion's photos

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Photos from August, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

sean's take on the road trip

This past weekend our NieuCommunities Director and friend, Rob Yackley, took a group of us down to San Diego to scout out some NieuCommunities possibilities. We kicked off our time down there meeting with a young missional leader named Jason who is one of the lead participants in an activisitic community in the area called "Ecclesia Collective." Jason and his cohorts are doing some exceptionally NC like activities in ministry and service that would be a natural help to us developing a site as we collaborate with them.

We then took a detour to take in some of the artistic elements of San Diego over at Balboa Park where we were able to check out the Dead Sea Scrolls on display. Artistic expression is a HUGE part of the NieuCommunities experience, so checking out what they have available in this realm was awesome.

After the Dead Sea Scrolls Rob sent us out in 2 groups of four on a walking tour of an area of San Diego with the greatest NC probabilities called Golden Hill. Its an economically poorer part of the city, yet rich in relational and historical context.

The questions Rob gave us to assist in our exploration as we were "Wandering on Golden Hill" were:

> Find a couple of things that say something about the history of the neighborhood.
> Look for something subtle, maybe even unexpected, that says something about what's important to people in the neighborhood.
> Describe your favorite house, building, and city view.
> Look for something that symbolizes hope.
> Look for something that symbolizes a lost cause.
> Describe the churches you saw and what the buildings/names of these churches might communicate.
> Find something else (besides a church) that is attempting to tap into people's spirituality and need for significance.
> Buy something you'd never find in your neighborhood.
> Ask a local what their favorite thing is about their neighborhood.
> Ask a local what they wish was better about their neighborhood.
> What didn't you see? What was missing? What seems needed?

As you can imagine, these questions, coupled with the opportunity to wander around Golden Hill for a couple of hours with like-minded friends made for a wonderful close for our exploration.

We ended the day at the Turf Club, an old steak house frequented by Frank Sinatra and his "Rat Pack" gang where you cook your own steak on an indoor community grill. VERY cool!

As Deb describes in her post this week, its nearly impossible for us to plan for our future at this time, but this chance to dream a bit with some NieuCommunities friends was a GREAT break. Even if we were to JUMP at the possibilities presented in San Diego we wouldn't be starting the process until next summer, so...we've got time to dream.

rob's road trip takeaways

Hey, I just wanted to thank you all for making Saturday such an special day! Several of you have said that the best part of the day was just being with other like-minded, fully committed, missional Christ-followers who love to dream. I’m with ya. Being with you was the best part of my day too! There was a moment Saturday afternoon when Derek, Sophia, Marion, and I (Team Orange!) stumbled onto a really cool, old 8-bedroom restored Victorian house with a huge backyard for rent that really grabbed our imagination. But what really inspired me, even more than the house itself, was just watching 4 people who had never been together before start imagining doing life and ministry together in place like that; planting a vegetable garden, creating space for kids, being a place of spiritual hospitality for the neighborhood. That was fun.

Here are a few other random thoughts and key takeaways I had during the day:

>> In a culture so enamored with the elusive pursuit of perfection, a gospel that embraces brokenness is more human, more spiritual, and more compelling.

>> The world of the upwardly mobile “haves” obliviously skimming over the lowly lives of the “have-nots”--as if they didn’t exist, just as the Coronado Bridge skims over and hides Chicano Park, was a powerful picture of the real San Diego and the need for believers to be near to and standing with the invisible majority.

>> After pondering Jason’s description of his community as an “activistic spiritual community,” I began to wonder what it would be like if we were an “activating spiritual community.” In other words, not just a community that is activistic, but one that is also making activists.

>> Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I really want to meet those 70 year-old Latino mafia-like gang leaders that protect the kids in the barrio, and I want to hear their stories!

>> At the Turf Club, I was commenting to Sean how this was just like being back at Pangani, except the whole town is here grilling! I love the relationship-building potential of that place, and the steaks weren’t bad either!

>> When Jason invited us to partner with The Ecclesia Collective, it felt like he was upping the invitation he had extended to me when I first met him in September, and it also felt like it was a holy invitation.

>> I was intrigued by the idea of taking that cool old church building on the corner of 25th and E and being part of a collective effort to make that a shared, spiritual hub in the neighborhood. Or at least using it to host some periodic, creative, community-building, spiritual events for our neighbors.

>> In a neighborhood without a single non-hispanic church, (that we could find), the idea of being part of a community of faith that could be used to be Jesus to a broader, multi-ethnic audience felt really needful, and compelling.

>> After we rendezvoused at the Krakatoa, Laurie made the comment to me that every time she goes there she feels a little conspicuous, like she’s not from around here and it’s obvious. It wasn't really a positive comment from her, but for me, it was a very positive comment. It might just say that the neighborhood is so small, so tight, and so neighborly that individual people are actually recognized. And if there are “outsiders,” then there are “insiders” too, and that gives us a chance to become insiders who know and who are known, who love and are loved, who serve and are served. Someone once described Golden Hill to me as “a small town in a big city.” It feels to me like being in that neighborhood would be anything but another anonymous Starbucks experience.

>> As I said out on the sidewalk after dinner, it strikes me that there are people who know what they want and then look for a neighborhood or a church that will provide that for them. And there are other people who know what they want, and then they look for a neighborhood in need where they can actually be the people who step into the vacuum and help create what needs to be. I’m definitely in the latter camp, and I think we just spent a day in a neighborhood needing the latter. If there are a bunch of cool churches and shops already serving a neighborhood, well, for me, then that neighborhood is already covered. But that’s not Golden Hill. It’s an old, still undeveloped downtown neighborhood that is ripe for creative expression of all kinds...from churches to businesses to public services. It needs people—and it seems like it’s just now beginning to draw people—who can see what’s not yet there, and help create it. Christiana said it well: “There's something happening there... something that has be to envisioned with our hearts rather than seen with our eyes.... something ready to be created.”

>> Or as Jason put it, “We don’t need more people who have read McLaren and Claiborne and who come here with their fauxhawks, beer, profanity, and untested emerging church ideas. We need people who will patiently listen; who will stick around and really get to know people, and who will play an activistic role.” I'm up for that.

>> It also struck me that ministry in a neighborhood like Golden Hill is kinda like receiving the Dead Sea Scrolls. As we saw earlier in the day, you don’t get the complete word from God in one tidy piece. If fact, you get it in hundreds and thousands of tiny little pieces of parchment that have to be pieced together like a giant, unimaginably complicated jigsaw puzzle. If we’re going to move onto Golden Hill, we’ll need to come and listen and find all the little “pieces of God’s parchment” in this neighborhood; pieces of God’s voice that will need to be collectively discovered and patiently assembled over time before we’d be able to fully be God’s people in the neighborhood.

Those are just some of my observations. I'd love to hear yours!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

From Christiana

Rob, thanks so much for all you did in preparation for Saturday. It was a beautiful day of wandering, exploring and listening. Derek and I have continued in a posture of listening, seeking God's direction in all of this. LOT'S to ponder. :)

I loved getting an insider's perspective of the city from Jason, listening to the city through indigenous art, eating the local food (cheap and delicious!), spending time viewing the dead sea scrolls and pondering how that continues to inform my faith, then walking the streets of Golden Hill to hopefully catch a glimpse of the heart of that place and those people...... and of course, the amazing Turf Club!

I appreciated how you ended our time together. It does seem like there's a need in Golden Hill for a people like NieuCommunities. There's something happening there... something that has be to envisioned with our hearts rather than seen with our eyes.... something ready to be created. I sensed that, Rob. And Derek and I would be honored if God would be leading us to join that calling. At this point we're still listening. We may need a follow up debrief coffee with you and Laurie sometime soon. :) Or dinner! :)

By the way, the most refreshing thing about the day for me was being with a group of convicted and committed Christ followers, taking this life of mission and community seriously. Derek and I are obviously the youngest but we felt valued and heard and respected. At the same time, we learned so much from all of you who are a bit more ahead of the game from where we're at. :)

Photos by Sean

A few photos that Sean took in Golden Hill (and surrounding areas), Nov 17, '07.

A conversation with Jason Evans

Jason Evans leads the Hawthorne House (a community of activists) and the Eccelsia Collective. Jason joined us on Saturday, November 17th for an eye-opening conversation about his city at Chicano Park in Barrio Logan.

Pics by Jon

Sunday, November 18, 2007

neighborhood impressions

Now that we've got a place to store and share our observations, I thought I'd post some stuff that's been sitting in an email folder way too long. A couple years ago, right after I made my first 3-day exploratory trip to San Diego, I asked about a dozen people I know who have lived in San Diego to give me their impressions of the following downtown neighborhoods. I didn't want long descriptions; just some words that immediately came to mind....kinda like Rorschach test on a city. Here's what they said (without editing!):

Hillcrest: trendy, gay, artsy, upscale, gentrified, alternative

Northpark: diversified, hip, up-and coming, the scene, crowded, growing gay community, widespread, mix of college town and urban ghetto, traditional home for many middle to lower income senior citizens, young, gentrified

Mission Hills: wealthy, static, wannabe Hillcrest, beautiful, safe, yuppie, executive salaries, retirees

Normal Heights: a lot like North Park, rooted, eclectic, nostalgic, wannabe North Park, cool, cheaper version of Mission Hills, middle class, ethnically mixed, charming

City Heights: Diverse, real, other side of the tracks, still kinda hip, Urban War Zone/Police State

University Heights: suburban, wannabe Mission Hills, yuppies, more mature

Kensington: premiere, fancy, unspoiled, liberal

Golden Hill: nice small town in a big city, trendy mixed with poor, old with new, bohemian, desirable, laid back, transitional, spotty

Sherman Heights: Older, renewed, mixed (rich/poor), WRONG side of tracks, Black War Zone

Logan Heights: gangs, tough schools, Hispanic, also WRONG side of tracks, Mexican War Zone

Two years and a half-dozen trips latter, I'm not sure I'd buy all those descriptions, nor have I tried to harmonize the discrepancies in them. But in general they're probably pretty close to what I've observed, and at a minimum, they give you a feel for how others in the city think of the downtown neighborhoods.