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My neighborhood in Detroit is rightly classified as “the hood.” To be sure, there are more dangerous areas in the world, but my block isn’t Mr. Rogers’s neighborhood.
Here, “neighboring” has become a lost art. People live in close proximity, but most are relationally distant, if not complete strangers. Constant crime, mistrust, fear, and poverty are pervasive and have shattered notions of being neighbors for many Detroiters.
Others - Years - Life - Streets - Hoodie
While it’s easy to criticize others, years ago I realized I’d effectively removed “neighboring” from my own life. I walked the streets in a hoodie, scowling, with my hand in my pocket to look threatening and unapproachable. Subconsciously—yet inexcusably—I’d closed up my life because of trauma. The pain and loss I’d experienced just felt too suffocating.
So over time, I put up walls—hoping to protect myself from more pain. Having my brother murdered—and then losing many others to violence here in Detroit—had a devastating effect on me.
Pain - Fear - Neighbor
I’d allowed pain and fear to prevent me from being a good neighbor.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to love those in our community, for this command is central to Christianity (Matt. 22:39). So once I’d repented of my lack of neighbor love, we began the journey of planting a church here in Detroit. Knowing the city’s history—and the historic lack of love those around us have experienced—we wanted to address some of the community’s most pressing felt needs.
Worship - Service - School - City - Organizations
So before we had even a single worship service, we partnered with a local school, various city organizations, and completed five service projects—all with the ambition to love and serve our neighbors in practical ways.
Why did we choose to prioritize these things? Unfortunately, the church as a whole—and black clergy in particular—often carry a stigma of fleecing the flock in my community. Our motives were constantly questioned. I had to acknowledge the...
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