Centern Stories: Week One with Natalie

“What Do You Think Is Important?” by Fred Rogers

What what what do you think?
What do you think is important really?
What what what do you think?
What do you think really counts?
What do you think about other people?
What do you think about new ideas?
What what what do you think?
What do you think is important?

Some people think that houses and cars and lots of fancy toys
Are the things that are most important for grown-up girls and boys
Of course houses are nice if there's love inside
And cars are too if they run well
It's the things that we do with the toys that we have
That help us to feel that we've done well

What what what do you think?
What do you think is important really?
What what what do you think?
What do you think is the best?
What kind of world would you like to live in?
What kind of love would you like to give?
What is essential for you and your neighbor?
What what what do you think?
What do you think is important?

This week, the other interns and I went out for crepes and a showing of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” the new documentary about Mister Fred Rogers. It’s a beautiful film about Rogers’ personal call to spread kindness to all. In the emergence of television, Mister Rogers was somehow able to form relational bonds with viewers across the nation. The Center focuses on creating and nurturing relationships that can better a neighborhood.

Many of the groups that visit The Center are groups of high schoolers who were essentially born into a congregation together. The youth know each other’s families and they have been friends since their first day of Sunday School. I had the pleasure of working alongside a group from First Presbyterian Church (Ann Arbor, MI) for Week One. In a beautiful way, this group did not fit the mold of the ‘typical’ group I have described. Before departing on a nine-hour road trip together, much of the group met each other for the first time that very morning. Sure, spending that number of hours in a van will force any group to get to know each other, but I believe it was the conversations during evening programming, the laughter while playing in the park, and the Peruvian chicken that truly brought this group together. They arrived as a group of people who were neighbors in a literal sense, but not necessarily in a relational sense. After a week of being thrown into life at The Center, they left with a clear, supportive connection. 

During our week together, we partnered with Gallery Church in Patterson Park (a bilingual congregation) and Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad (a 1001 New Worshipping Community made up of recent immigrants from Central America). With Gallery Church, we brought games and Bible stories to a large neighborhood park to play and learn with the church members as well as any families nearby who wanted to join us. With Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad, we worked alongside some of the church members on the church’s farm. We witnessed the power of these two congregations intentionally engaging with their neighbors through the power of laughter, bubbles, and fresh produce. By the end of the week, we saw Pastor Bill and Aida of Gallery forming connections with neighbors who they likely would not have met inside of their church walls. We saw the Ann Arbor youth forming close friendships with the youth of Gallery. We saw the leadership of Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad seeking out the best ways to minister to their congregants as national and local news surrounding immigrants elevated. 

On Friday, our planned morning at Comunidad Presbiteriana La Trinidad was rained out and our plan B was to reflect on The Good Samaritan and the treatment of our neighbors who are crossing the border. The Center’s missional theology typically leads us to focus on times when we are the one who needs help rather than the one who is helping. Generally, we would read the story of the Good Samaritan through the lens of being the person who is in a ditch instead of automatically placing ourselves in the shoes of the helper – the good Samaritan. We spent the morning recognizing that the role of being a good neighbor can and should be a reciprocal experience. Just as we know times in our lives when we have needed a neighbor to pull us out of the ditch, we are also called by Jesus to advocate for our neighbors. Called to love our neighbors, we wrote to our congresspersons telling stories of our week with new immigrant friends and demanding better treatment of families at the border.

One of my main takeaways from last week was the gift children and youth have of embracing the neighbor around them. When it comes to crossing social boundaries that limit us as a neighborhood, there tends to be less hesitation and fear for younger people. God has placed people around us who are already living out God’s call to love their neighbor regardless of circumstances. May we all “make the most of this beautiful day”[1] by going and doing likewise.  

-Natalie

[1]  “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Fred Rogers, 1967.

Centern Stories: Week Zero with Laura

Last week, the interns and I worked with FPC Raleigh at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church and Rockrose City Farm to do some gardening. (see previous post to see interviews with the youth about their week here). Going into that week, I was definitely excited about the work we were going to do and the relationships we were going to build. Despite this week not lending to a lot of interaction with community members, the youth were able to have a wonderful opportunity on Tuesday. They were able to sit down and have lunch with people from the community that came in for a meal. Given that we had just talked about crossing boundaries the night before, this was their chance to cross the boundaries that were presented to them. When it was time to eat, there was a moment of hesitation from the group. They seemed unsure what to do at first. After some direction from one of their group leaders, the youth finally were seated and people from the community joined them for a meal.

Looking around the room, it was incredible to see the interactions the youth and adults were having. They were all crossing boundaries and navigating how to do it respectfully. That day and the rest of the week, the youth constantly brought up conversations that they had with community members. Knowing the youth all step outside their safe boundaries and purposefully got to know someone that is different from them meant that they were getting what we were teaching. As someone that has been a participant at The Center, I know that the relationships made and the boundaries that were crossed is something that can really make a difference.

This was one of the reasons why I wanted to become a Center Intern (Centern). I wanted to build more relationships with people and cross boundaries, but also see other groups do the same. Last week was just the beginning to what is going to be a great and boundary breaking summer. Stay tuned for more adventures!

-Laura

Week Zero! FPC Raleigh @ Amazing Grace Lutheran

 

We hadn't planned on having a group this early in the summer. Schools in Baltimore aren't even out until next week! But God had other plans, and when First Presbyterian Church of Raleigh called in December asking if we had room, we said "Yes!" and asked our church partners if they would take on a Week Zero with us. Amazing Grace Lutheran Church and Rockrose City Farm both said "Yes!" and the rest is history.

Centern (Center Intern) Shelby Andrews interviewed youth participants on site this week so you could hear about what God is doing in Baltimore. 

Come back next week for our first week of doubles - two groups at once, serving in two neighborhoods, and two cities in our presbytery!

-The Center Staff

What boundaries did you notice today? How did it feel to cross them? Or not cross them?

What boundaries did you notice today? How did it feel to cross them? Or not cross them?

Written by Bryson and Garrett, a rising 7th grader and rising 9th grader, respectively, Burke Presbyterian Church in Burke, VA.

Garett: “I noticed the physical boundaries between neighborhoods you can see. They look different and have a different feel. Some of the houses are nicer in some places, and not as well kept in others. Same with the streets: some are covered in trash while others are fairly clean.”

Bryson: “I noticed the houses and neighborhoods, too. In some neighborhoods, the houses were boarded up.”

Garrett: “I didn’t always notice when we were crossing boundaries. But when we walked from the really nice neighborhood- it was quiet, it smelled nicer. But when we walked past the wall [from the nice neighborhood to the more distressed neighborhood] it was really noticeable. I felt like I had to be more alert outside of the nice neighborhood on the street.

At camp I interacted with more mentees today, because of what we talked about last night, and how we can cross the boundaries, especially racially. Even if just playing, and being on the same “team” when playing soccer.

I didn’t personally cross this boundary, but seeing the kids trusting the police [who came and spoke to the kids], and there’s lots of stuff with the the police officers in their neighborhoods. I thought they answered the kids questions to get the kids to trust the cops and feel safe.”

Bryson: “I didn’t always notice the boundaries when we were driving because I don’t live in neighborhoods like those.

At camp I noticed the kids really wanted to play hide and seek, but they had to do their work first. And I wanted them to do their work so they could learn to be leaders, but we had to help them focus.”