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Someone has been setting fire to houses in the Heidelberg Projectbilde

The Heidelberg Project is a public art project on the east side of Detroit created by Tyree Guyton.  I like it because it is not what you would expect to see in a city, especially Detroit.

I take that back.  Detroit is the city where you could expect to see the unexpected.  Where residents seem to be more free to express their creative sensibilities than in other places.   Hand-lettered signs, with ingenious word spellings.   Primitivist artwork (that’s what I would call it).  On stores, churches, signs for block clubs and community gardens.  A lot of people feel pretty free with a paintbrush.

Six houses have been set fire in the Heidelberg Project.  It just seems crazy that a person would be doing this, what Executive Director Jenenne Whitfield calls “madness”.

Years ago a man came to me during our time in the 80’s at Chicago Temple Corps on Chicago’s west side.  He said he was a retired security guard and offered to keep an eye on our building and property at the corner of Madison Street and Ogden Avenue.  This was before the current Temple building and the senior citizen apartment building were built.  Our corner then looked really rough, like a World War 1 battlefield.

Sure, I said.  A couple days later in a corner of our big sprawling lot appeared a cardboard structure.  Our security guard had built a home.  A rather grand one.  It did no harm so we left him alone.  True, we weren’t so certain about his mental stability.  Among other things, the secuity uniform he wore had definitely seen better days.

One day a group of boys walked past the guard’s home and threw a couple rocks at it.  He was inside, came out and yelled at them.  Later that afternoon, the boys returned and burned his cardboard house to the ground.

The next day a new cardboard home appeared.

I wish the Heidelberg Project the same Phoenix-like ability to rise from the ashes.  bildeCA5FE278


Here’s a report and video from the Free Press on this week’s fire at Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project.

Heidelberg project 3

Gail and I are northbound on US31 this sunny afternoon headed to our tent site at Ludington State Park.  We are taking several days to enjoy Michigan before returning home to prepare for Jamboree (tenting) and CBLI (no tenting).

I wanted to share what I saw this past weekend in Merrillville IN.  Bandsmen, singers, dancers, and some very funny people gathered at the Star Theater.  Every three years the Salvation Army sponsors a gospel arts festival that draws a couple thousand of us for a marathon weekend of performances and worship.  By the end you have heard and seen over a hundred presentations.  Some are, well, okay.  But most are stirring and wondrous.  And a few are transcendent.  I was transfixed many times, especially by the creative and imaginative ways some were able to work with what they have.

By noon Saturday it was apparent that worship in movement has finally come into its own in our Army.  Years past we’ve had interpretive movement, a little shuffling of the feet, a liturgical dancer here and there.  Rarely have we been stunned in awe.  And if the artists did dance and move, we Army people haven’t been sure we ought to appreciate it.  We yet have cobwebs gracing corners of our aesthetic sensibilities.

But this weekend, the Army danced!  It was pure joy to see onstage the young women ensemble from Minnesota, especially the littlest girls dance, dash offstage, and then dash on back for the finale.  Iowa City’s young people in mime and motion.  And the three young women from Kansas City Bellefontaine were absolutely stunning.  Full of grace and truth.  And numerous other times in small ways showing that we are learning something about the good news artfully presented in movement.

And we all got it.  Around me was nothing but appreciation and joy at watching grace and truth in motion.  We still appreciate the brass band (Kansas City Northland Corps, what fine ensemble playing).   But we are getting it, and getting into expressing our faith in movement.

The fluid play which dance and movement allows was paralleled by hip hop poetry from Detroit’s GCF (God Comes First).  St Louis Temple’s robed young people sang (they were a little nervous). 

Gospel arts from urban places have not always been able to escape their place in the margins of Salvation Army life and culture.  This past weekend they moved onstage at the Star Theater in a way that may show we now are beginning to see and hear urban worship in this Army.

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