Archives for posts with tag: St Louis

It is a 100 degree day on our street.  I say to Gail ‘let’s walk to El Bronco‘.  We go.

We walk down Iowa.  A mother and her young daughter coming out of their home smile and greet us.  We return the greetings.  We each know not the other’s name.  But we know we are neighbors.  Neighbors walk in their neighborhoods.

Across the street three young men yell greetings to us.  We smile and I give thumbs up.

At Cherokee we turn west.  Cumulonimbus overhead arriving from the west.  Are we going to get wet walking home?

Our usual.  A chimichanga for her.  For me the two taco lunch special which you can order anytime.  Not fancy, but simple goodness.  The place quieter than usual.  Heat has people down.   Not us.  We have to eat.

Tonight Gail tells me that she wishes she knew the names of El Bronco staff.  Our waitress.

When she comes to collect our bill I ask ‘what is your name?’  She always has a warm smile for us.  But now her smile turns beatific, more intensely warm.  As if ‘I’ve been waiting for you to find out’.  As if we just gave her a gift.  Her name is Maylee.  I introduce us.  ‘Phil and Gail’.  That smile is with her as she leaves our table.

During my first taco (steak, onions and cilantro wrapped in two warm corn tortillas drizzled with lime) I happen to look up and notice that Pastor Dave is with the group of men that had entered a few minutes earlier.  We catch each others attention, wordlessly exchange waves.  After paying our bill we go over and Dave introduces his three guests.  The men are visiting from Springfield MO, Denver, and Kansas City. We chat a little.  They ask about our Salvation Army work.  Pastor Dave asks what Salvation Army people think about Sara Johnson’s Democratic Party committeewoman campaign (enthusiastic).  He also asks about our son, John.  John introduced us to Pastor Dave a couple years ago.  John knows everyone in Benton Park West and everyone knows John.

We leave El Bronco.  The sky has grown darker with clouds.  We start up California.  Thunder.

I say to Gail ‘show me the grapes’.  She told me about them a few days ago, grapes that finally have appeared on a vine John put up a few years ago behind the Salvation Army Temple Corps.  Rain sprinkles, but I want to see the grapes.

We turn east on Juniata and jog to the left down an alley to a trellis.

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Will they survive?  When some unknown passerby notices that they are starting to look good …

Across the street Miss Gigi sitting outside at Booth Manor, keeping cool, notices us.  We cross the street to talk.  We all agree.  The grapes look promising.  For now Miss Gigi is keeping an eye on them.  She will put up a little fence with a sign.  She tells us that should be enough to help people respect the grapes.  We believe her.  Miss Gigi has authority.

The rain starts to fall.   Miss Gigi sends us off.  We pick up the pace.  The wind has too, the air cooling.  But before going inside I need to inspect Gail’s flowers.  She noticed today that the black-eyed Susans she and Sara planted a few weeks ago are doing well.

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Inside, before the heavy rain begins, ends, leaving a quiet St Louis sky.

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I tell people that this is the first time in a long time that I have lived in and felt like part of a neighborhood.  The experience of walking to a restaurant.  Of meeting and visiting with people I know.  It makes me feel rich in the Holy Currency of relationship.

I like being a neighbor.

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Here on Arsenal Street I am observing our Temple House candle and prayer hour.

Each Wednesday our Temple House community lights a candle in a window at 8 PM.  For an hour we take time to pray for peace in our St Louis neighborhood.

This week I pray with the memory of 4 evenly spaced gunshots two nights ago.  The day before, Miss Gigi shook her head at our Sunday evening meal when we talked about how warmer weather means more shooting.  She pointed to the alley behind us.  They shoot back there.  Yup.

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Last week I took this photo walking home from Sara’s place.  We had finished our Tuesday meal together hosted in her home.  Over plates of enchiladas Stephen, Jessica and I had discussed how individuals who are people of color (Stephen and me) become the spokesperson for all those who look like us.  At least in the eyes of people who are not of our color.  I don’t mean just white people.  All of us tend to this simple-mindedness.  Our conversation made us more aware of our tendency.  More aware of what to overcome.  Then it was time for banana bread and fresh strawberries with whipped cream.

The weather has been great here in St Louis.  I’ll soon begin my fourth summer here and after years of Chicago summers can’t say that it’s any stickier, hotter here.  The sky over St Louis can be dramatic with cumulonimbus clouds and storm fronts that rush through.

Drama.  Living in a neighborhood with gunshots a regular feature causes a person to take the shooting a little less seriously.  A few months ago during an early Sunday morning run I heard gunshots, listened carefully, gauged them to be from one direction several blocks away, and corrected my running course in another direction.  Simple.

A little less serious.  Cavalier?  That, among other reasons, is why on Wednesday evenings we light a candle and pray.

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Sunday evening in Temple Gardens for a grand cookout and potluck.  Behind us to the right is the alley about which Miss Gigi just shakes her head.

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This week began our Wednesday evening prayer for safety and peace in St Louis.

Behind the candle in our window is the bell tower of St Francis de Sales.  Gail and I started our eight o’clock hour of prayer observance with the bell of St Francis.  We joined other Temple House homes on Arsenal, Wyoming and Jefferson (and in solidarity even far off in Chicago).  A candle in our window for one hour.

It was an hour of meditation and peace contrasting with gunfire and violence.  It is part of our witness.  And we believe that it also is a time of God at work in us and in our Benton Park West neighborhood.

Amen.

Last night we met on the back porch.  Jessica had warm chocolate chip cookies and a home-made pizza.  We talked, again, about the same thing we had discussed last week at Darren and Char’s place.  What to do about the shooting in our neighborhood.

Last week someone was shot to death in front of Darren and Char’s building.  It’s the first shooting death this year in our neighborhood.  But many gunshots have come before that one bullet.  At times we hear them as we lie in bed on an otherwise quiet night.  Or we happen to glimpse out the window just as someone falls, writhing in pain.

What do we do?

Last week we agreed.  Prayer.  And a candle in the window.  Last night, more logistics.  Today, Gail posted to Temple House Dwellers Facebook:

“Last night we decided to light a candle every Wednesday from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM and pray for an end to violence in our neighborhood. We hear gun shots but acknowledge that there are other acts of violence as well. We want our neighborhood to be a welcoming place where hospitality is practiced. Shooting at each other is not welcoming or hospitable…(yes, I often state the obvious, can’t help myself). We know that there is more to do on this but we are going to start with the lighting of candles and ask God to help us hear and see what the next step will be. We still have not come up with a ‘slogan’ but feel it will come.”

One more thing we agreed will help us to pray for our neighborhood.

When we lie in bed on a quiet night or are out walking and hear ringing in the distance on the hour the church bell of St Francis de Sales Oratory we will pray.

So, here we go.

St Francis in the distance

  A little bit of lavender Betsy picked from Temple Gardens.

We said goodbye today at noon to John and Betsy who helped us move in this Labor Day weekend to Benton Park West.  Without them we couldn’t have done it.  Thanks, John and Betsy.

Several Temple House dwellers came over yesterday to welcome us with a meal.  Darren barbecued pork steaks and chicken.  We think he’s become kind of an expert at this.  Everyone pitched in and we had a great time of food and visiting.

 

Captain Mary Kim joined us for the evening. The Captain is identifying the table flowers from Temple Garden. Kamaria Gage finds something funny. Char Lopez finds something to ponder.

 
Why are we here on Arsenal Street?  Our convictions.  We have thought about this for some time, for decades.  But even with convictions and long considered thoughts there is uncertainty.  We fix our eyes on the will of God.  But out of the corner of the eye we catch a flit of movement.  There’s more there than what’s right in front of us.  I’ll write more.  Just not now.

Now?  Get settled in.  Get to know our neighbors better.   Listen and look.  And let our neighbors learn about us.

 

first morning on ArsenalJust a quick note this Saturday morning.

It’s now come to pass:  Gail and I are on Arsenal Street in St Louis’ Benton Park West.  With help from John and Betsy we moved a mattress and some personal belongings after work and were able to spend our first night here.

After moving I mentioned to Betsy that this would be the first time I’ve lived this close to a Salvation Army corps building.  From in front of our home I simply look to the west and can see St Louis Temple Corps.  I can see into the lobby.

This week Gail and I have moved some of our stuff each night.  We’ve also met and talked with neighbors on this block.  Marlo to the east.  The two men across the street who regularly sit talking at the pickup truck.

Today, more moving.  But we are here.

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I’ve seen this before.

The issue really isn’t the buildings.  It’s “decades of declining enrollment … as students have left for the suburbs and charter schools”.  St Louis is not unique.  More famously, Detroit has been going through this.  And other American cities.  At its peak in 1967 St Louis public school enrollment was 115,543.  Current enrollment is 26,000.  A 77% drop.

Elisa Crouch’s St Louis Post-Dispatch article reports that 45 buildings have been closed in the last 10 years leaving 74 in use.

St Louis hopes to interest buyers to take and repurpose some of these closed school buildings.

With the superiority of naval air power came the end of battleships.  Streaming has replaced the phonograph.  Obsolescence is part of humanity’s modern project.  Urban systems and infrastructures have a rough time dealing with obsolescence.  What to do with 21 old buildings?

 

We pulled up into the Temple Corps parking lot at 3:07 PM today.  We crossed the street.  Sara greeted us at the gate and we walked along the side of the house, past Temple Gardens, opened the wooden gate.  We had arrived for Temple Houses’ Memorial Day BBQ.

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Darren had wheeled the new Weber from his place on Texas Street. Chicken legs and his own Buffalo wings recipe.  Hot dogs.  We all pitched in with salads, fresh fruit, spoonbread.  Plenty to eat.

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Alex and Alyson from Royal Oak MI were visiting this weekend, checking out Temple Houses.  John Stewart was back in town from Colorado to attend a conference; it was good to see him again.  And just about all of the regular TH community were able to come share table fellowship under the shade of the apple tree which has been miraculously restored to health.

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Gail wanted to show Kirsten the house we will soon move into. I needed to come along to open the key lock box.  We walked east a block to 2708 Arsenal.  It’s still under construction but now the shape of the apartment is clear.  Soon we will live on Arsenal Street.

Back under the apple tree it felt good.  Warm weather zephyrs.  Sitting with these young adults who we feel are beginning to form genuine community.  It’s not an immediate, sure thing.  Community cannot be commanded.  But we are beginning to experience it, to sense the connections and relationships, and even some understanding of life together in service to the world God so loves.  The label we choose to use is missional community.  Labels can’t be avoided.  We’ve avoided ‘incarnational ministry’.  We prefer community in mission, life together in service.

I began to feel drowsy.  I ate too much today.  Sitting together, sharing food.  We were pretty content.  Be content with what you have.  That was my earliest remembrance of a scripture recitation.   A Nathan’s hot dog.  Watermelon.  A dab of potato salad.  Together.

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They’ll make you answer a question.  Go ahead.  So you can read more about Father Dunne and his Newsboy Home.

The building at 3010 W. Washington in St Louis is no longer the Newsboy Home.  This past week Gail and I snuck around workmen, fresh paint to see the former Newsboy Home/former Harbor Light now becoming what we are calling (unofficially) 3010.

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Part of the remodeling includes keeping as much as possible the building’s past.  The chapel retains original floor tile and many other features.

Such as the stained glass windows.  When we walked into the chapel a workman offered to show us the newly arrived renovated windows.  He unwrapped one and set it out for us to admire.

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The windows will soon be re-installed.  Lovely.

The Post-Dispatch says that The Salvation Army is remodeling the building into apartments.  More to the story.

The apartments will provide affordable housing for men and women, many who will be or have been in the Army’s treatment programs.  The apartments will provide a place, home.

And 3010’s existence in the city means that there will be a place in the city for those who in many American cities are being pushed out by economic realities.  It’s just too expensive.  Because it’s become just too lucrative to not develop properties for upper-middle and higher income folks.  Chicago’s Lincoln Park, etc.  Will it happen in St Louis?  It will if there is no will to make a place for those who are easily squeezed out.  Out to the edges, to the margins.

Salvation Army has been creating places in St Louis for affordable housing.  Railton Residence.  Veterans Residence.  Now, 3010.  And plans for further developments.

Why?  Because cities do not become full, complete places by homogenizing their economic landscape.  A city’s economy cannot offer a rich urban experience with only the rich.  The rich only become poorer.

When the Army’s co-founder William Booth envisioned salvation for the world he saw more than a religious compartment of human life.  Life also means having a place, a decent place, in this world.  This world so loved by God.

Sunday morning in St Louis we rolled up to this sign.  It’s at the exit from eastbound I-64/US40 at Kingshighway.  It’s a place that often has a man or woman collecting.  This morning no one there.  Just a sign.

October 5 2014 (7)The light turned and we headed north to Euclid Corps, a Salvation Army neighborhood center in north St Louis.   We enjoyed our morning worship with the corps.

October 5 2014 (9)October 5 2014 (3)October 5 2014 (4)Sunday evening we were in south St Louis with the Temple House community.  Sara is leading us now in Don Miller’s Storyline.  In a few weeks I will lead a study of the Gospel of Luke.  Any day now a copy of Joel Green’s great little book on the theology of Luke should arrive.  It will be among material to guide us in seeing the gospel’s place for marginalized persons through Luke’s lens.  Our cities need Christians who also see those who are marginalized, on the fringes.  I hope our study helps us become more seeing in this way.

photo 3 (2)Cheryl, John S. and Elysia.

We also said our goodbyes to John S. who left St Louis this morning, returning to Colorado to be with his family.  For a time.  John’s a multi-talented person.  His plans are to be in the city.  Which city?  He’s yet to decide.  We will miss John S.  In his honor we all went over to the Texas Street house and in solidarity joined him to watch an episode of his favorite show:  Dr. Who.  Darren threw for the chips and guacamole.

John S. was with us a year, as a City Vision College student and intern.  He’s among two recent Temple Houses departures.  The other John left last month for Nashville.  John Aho (our son) has had the longest stay at Temple Houses.  Was the first.  Came alone.  Now there’s a flourishing community of young men and women living near the St Louis Temple Corps on Arsenal Street.

John A. with Kyle D.

John A. with Kyle D.

Temple Houses now has three openings.  Are you a young adult?  Looking for a missional community in the city?  Check out Temple Houses.

 

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