Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Living in Community

Changing towns and places where I am staying is a great advantage when you are taking daily walks!  You get to know lots of different neighborhoods!  This week I have been with my sister and her family in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Several things have really impressed me.
First, thing I noticed is the number of huge murals that have been painted on buildings.  I saw one painted in 2003 and another from 2016 with a bunch created in the years in between.  Also, many of them reflect local themes/people and are done by local people through the Mural Art Project.  Here are only a couple of examples.  One near the PA School for the Deaf has people who are signing.  Another represents famous women from Germantown; probably the person best known outside of this neighborhood is Louisa May Alcott who lived in the area from 1830-34. (There is another sign with some history near where her house stood.)  The third show scenes of growing up in the neighborhood.  Aren’t these lovely?  Come walk with me and discover a bunch more!

The next thing I notice on my walk is the amount of green.  There are trees and parks galore.  Pittsburgh also has lots of parks and parklets.  I love it – and it is healthy for us all, too.  Here is part of Vernon Park which includes a pole advocating for peace in four languages.

Another fact that amazes me is the number of churches!  There are the huge stone buildings (and often a couple in the same block) which represent major protestant denominations: Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist (and probably Catholic, too, but I haven’t noticed them).  Quakers (Society of Friends) are well represented too, with their meeting houses and schools.  Then there are the less-known Christian denominations who have taken over big buildings or who operate out of store fronts like the one pictured here. 

The sheer number of churches and denominations has me thinking about an interesting book I have been reading lately: The Nearly Infallible History of Christianity by Nick Page.  Yes, the title attracted me and he uses a lot of humor as he writes – you can tell from the subtitle!  I am up to the 700s AD.  I am amazed by   Many theologians and their followers have been named heretics now, but there were MANY.  It is almost like one of those jokes that there ever there are 3 Christians, you will have 4 theologies.  Why can’t we agree?  Why can’t we hear God’s call and work together? (Even if we don’t agree on exactly how to understand and interpret what Christ said and did?)  What must we do, today, to find ways to hear those of other beliefs (whether Christian or not) so that we can live in peace on this earth?
the number of divisions there were among early Christians – maybe even more when there was only the “Catholic” church than there are now.

The last observation for today is the amount of trash (litter) on the ground.  It is worse on some block   I know many shopkeepers and home owners try to keep it picked up.  It is part of the culture, evidently, for some (many?) to throw trash anywhere and let someone else worry about picking it up (or not worrying if no one does).  This was true (or worse) in Garoua Boulai, Cameroon.  I asked a shopkeeper there about it once as he threw litter on the ground in front of his own store.  He said, “I clean it up once a day.”  In Philadelphia (and other US cities) it is even worse, in my opinion, because the cities provide trash cans at regular intervals!  Why do we create ugliness and damage the environment?  Often I pick up litter leaving the place cleaner than before I passed by, but the task is too big for one person.  Am I too picky?  Behind the times?   Or, how do we communicate the desire for litter-free streets to the majority?
than others.

We find many ways to live harmoniously in community.  This entry talks about a few.  What can you (and I) do to make things better?  We may differ in our approaches, but we can all have a positive impact. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Service of Thanksgiving

I talked to NGBOKO David, former mayor of Baboua, today.  If you remember he, the sous-prefet, and an apostolic pastor were held hostage for one year and three days; they were released in July 2016.  He told me today that there will be a special service of Thanksgiving in Baboua this Sunday, September 4, 2016.  Many people will be there from all Christian groups (Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, etc.)  I didn’t think to ask, but my guess the Muslims will attend as well.  Also planning to attend are government officials, those from MINUSCA (the UN peace-keeping force) and other notables. 

I promised to pass the news along to you all with a request that you also send up prayers of thanksgiving on Sunday during your liturgies.  We are grateful that these three men were safely released as were the Cameroonian hostages who were held by others.  We are glad that they are in good health generally (even though they lost weight during the long ordeal).

I had previously asked David if he wanted to continue being mayor of Baboua.  He said he thought not at this time.  I also asked about his back salary (which was not paid to him or his family while he was hostage) and he said they are working to get that to him.

Here is a picture I got of NGBOOKO David, taken early in August.  I know you join me in wishing all of the hostages healing so that they can return to a productive life with their families and communities.  Thank you for all the prayers in support of this sign of peace and healing in the Central African Republic.

P.S.  I am currently in Philadelphia, PA visiting my sister and her family.  I am slowly continuing to “network” as I search for a job.  Nothing yet. Next week I will be with Mom again and a brother who is coming from Los Angeles.  Still unsettled, but happy to be with family.