Starting today, January 1, 2019, I am praying (among other things) every day for:
☛Some who will come and join us as a part of our CPC in The Hill congregation who have the entrepreneur skills to make opportunities in the Hill (not outside the Hill, in the Hill)
☛Some with a humble and learning spirit to join us as a part of CPC in The Hill, not for leadership, but as servants to empower our Hill members and thus our Hill neighbors, those that can help us build the resources we need, that the Hill needs.
☛For some young, trained, Christian adventurers to come join us—and stay, not just consider us a mission adventure or a step to what “we really want to do,” but a committed, long term ministry among people in the Hill.
☛For some with resources, talents, and gifts and abilities that will share these resources, talents, and gifts and abilities as a part of CPC in The Hill.
☛And, one very specific, a more narrow, request, that a few would feel the call to help me figure out how to build a ministry of hospitality in and through CPC in The Hill.
Most consider that opportunities for bettering lives, for up-ward mobility, for employment, etc. is outside the Hill. Some Christians even think spiritual success and vibrant church life is outside places like the Hill. If the Christmas incarnation we just celebrated teaches us anything, God sends his chosen into places like the Hill to live incarnationally (meaning relocating and living as a member of that place) and ascensionally [yes, I made up an adverb, but it is a real thing] as members of Christ’s body in a place, i.e., living out the ascension life of Christ as a part of a church in a neighborhood.
Part of my vision (and I believe I have my congregation on this, our vision) is to be a church that helps create such opportunities in (not outside) the Hill. The way to change poverty and the conditions of poverty is to empower those living with the conditions of poverty to have opportunities to flourish and succeed in their community and neighborhoods. Most—if not all—opportunities are, however, elsewhere. The idea of “hoarding of opportunities” (my new phrase for 2019) comes into play here: the opportunities for flourishing and a better life are hoarded outside communities like the Hill. Most likely, you, as a Christian, are in such a place where opportunities are being hoarded.
CPC in The Hill, we are not a non-profit nor a community program. This vision can’t just be written into a grant. (FYI—my profession for 20 years before coming to the Hill.) We are a church, a gathered-church in the Hill community of New Haven, CT. Our gospel not only saves each of us, it empowers us, together as church, to love on our neighborhood and to think of ways in which we can help or enable it to flourish. I believe this is God’s way as well. Not the State. Not our pity. Not our largess to offer charity. But a church, made up of redeemed people freed to serve others, to be, together as church, a foretaste of things to come (in the new heavens and new earth); a tangible, touchable, taste-able, visible display of the presence of God’s kingdom in a place, for people. Church.
Jesus acted out the alternative to empire, to power, to the state, to the way things are; an alternative to the status quo. So, as Christ’s body, are we not to act out the (one true and eternal) alternative to empire, to power, to the state, to the way things are, to the status quo? Yes, indeed. Of course, we want people that actually live and have been living in the Hill to join us—and they are and they will. That’s the point to all this. Still, I am thinking there are others just like me who feel God’s call to a mysterious, humbling, relocating adventure of ministry. Old (like me) and young. Not for the short term. But to relocate (to church and/or to the neighborhood—Lisa and I just moved into our Hill apartment). Some, for sure.
To those “some” in my prayer requests (above), perhaps the Hill is your next step in your discipleship journey. To the “some” who are retired or ready to retire, life (if heaven be real) isn’t elsewhere in God’s kingdom, perhaps the Hill is your retirement home. To the “some” who are young, college-age, millennials, the Hill can be you statement against all that is said about your generation and be the place of your discipleship-flourishing adventure. To the “some” of the Z-generational who are ready to make life decisions, maybe God’s call is for you to discover a place at CPC in The Hill. To the “some” with the resources, talents, and gifts and abilities to empower others to flourish, perhaps God is calling you to an adventure in the Hill. Perhaps to the “some” already settling for a status-quo (“I desire this”) life where opportunities are being hoarded, there is a call for a better life, something mysteriously great, more significant.
I can count, without hesitation, a dozen of my friends (which include college-mates, former students, ministry colleagues) that I’d say, consider this. (You might even know who you are. I am thinking I should just invite you to consider–some I have already, even if you think I was kidding.) I know of local young, millennial, and Z-generation friends and acquaintances that could make a difference away from the places that are “hoarding opportunities” and make that difference in the Hill.
This is no easy adventure. Your (i.e., the “some”) first call is to live among and listen and learn from our Hill neighbors. This will be hard because you will think you are called to change things and lead others—that’s why you are responding to this invitation and call in the first place. But the first part of the journey is serving, learning, and loving. This is counterintuitive; but, it is God’s way. (And that’s why many won’t take up this invitation.) The mystery here is not going into the Hill to bring God with you, but to join God who is already at work in the Hill.
In all likelihood, you (the “some”) are now in a place where the world and the church is “hoarding the opportunities” that neighbors in the places like the Hill can and could use. Perhaps, some of you can change this by being a part of, a member of, a servant with CPC in The Hill.
This is my vision and prayer for 2019. You have been invited to consider this joining in this vision.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.