Here’s a suggestion, don’t downplay or underestimate Cleveland. I was thoroughly impressed with the communities we encountered while in Cleveleand.
The show was first presented at Noble Rd Presbyterian Church. After worshiping there later in the week, I concluded that this was one of the more relaxed and authenthic expressioned of Church that I’ve encountered within the mainline Christian tradition. There was a celebration of difference and each member’s uniqueness and a readiness to discern the urgings of the Spirit. Notably, I did not discuss a post show reflection time with Francis, the church’s pastor and the show coordinator. We decided- we’ll just see what happens. After the show, feeling more tired then usual, I decided not to make an invitation for a group reflection. However, when I went down to share refreshments with those gathered there was a quiet attentiveness in the room. I made a simple invitation for folks to share their thoughts and what followed was a surprisingly refreshing expression of confession, confusion, conviction, and hope.
The following day, Leaps and Bounds was presented in inner city Cleveland by St Paul United Church of Christ and the Catholic Worker House of Cleveland- two organizations working overtime to meet the needs of inner city residents. This community put on a great event, the refreshment table was filled with sweet treats as well as freshly dug up root harvests from the community garden. Many in attendance had spent time studying Sabbath Economics and were ready to launch in to some real tough questions about the mandates of faithful living. They talked about working against cultural conditioning, not being able to lay claim to their material wealth, the relationship building that came from local economies. I was humbled by the degree to which they faced these challenging ideas and the awareness that many have been facing these challenges for decades.
After the show, Ariam and I followed the crowd to a celebration of Gather Round Farm, an inner city community farm that had been built on top of an abandoned parking lot. Using permaculture design, the vegetable and herb beds were shaped as spirals and teardrops. Their chicken coup required the organizers to jump through a number of bureaucratic hoops. It was a remarkable witness of ‘backyard sustainability’ and urban renewal. My guess is that this place will continue being a place for learning and relationship building for decades to come!