Shalom in Braddock, PA #dmingml

September 29, 2010 — 1 Comment

Mayor John Fetterman speaks at the 2009 Pop!Tech conference about how community is returning to Braddock, PA.

This small community situated near Pittsburgh, PA, flourished half a century ago, but since then as lost 90% of its buildings to decay and demolition, and 90% of its population. Since 2006 Mayor Fetterman has been working to bring community back to Braddock. His question is, “What can be done to reenergize and enfranchise a community that has lost 90% of everything it once was and remains in a rapidly deteriorating state of disrepair?”

The answer revolves around one word: “repurposing.”

Strategically the approach is two-fold:
1. Focus on the community that exists. 90% gone means that 10% is still there. That 10% must be involved in catalyzing any way forward. It would be a mistake to neglect those voices.
2. Engage individuals outside the community to help rebuild and energize it. Solutions won’t come exclusively from within.

Fetterman has led the community to look past the reality of abandoned lots, houses, and buildings to imagine what they ought to look like. He has taken old churches and turned them into community centers, old furniture stores into loft residences and artist studios. He is the first to admit that the work isn’t done and the landscape of the community continues to change. Yet although he’s unsure of what the future holds, he still leads the community toward a vision of what Braddock ought to be.

This is a vivid example of what Hunter would call “faithful presence.” Fetterman has developed a network of people, himself an elite in that network, who are taking the long view of shalom – peace, wholeness, flourishing, delight. He is seeking the peace of the city for the benefit of all.

Christians might want to repurpose Fetterman’s question, “What can be done to reenergize and enfranchise a community that has lost 90% of everything it once was and remains in a rapidly deteriorating state of disrepair?” If, as Hunter asserts, American Christianity has lost its effectiveness in changing culture, then what is the way forward?

Here also, a repurposing of Fetterman’s strategy might be appropriate: Focus on the community that exists and bring in perspectives and energy from outside the community to reenergize it. Solutions won’t come exclusively from within. Focus on what ought to be as a lens for view what is. Even in the midst of uncertainty about what the future holds, move forward toward a picture of shalom.

For more on Braddock, PA visit http://www.15104.cc

Anderson Campbell

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