“Cherish what is simple. Be in awe of what is great.” —Christopher de Vinck in The Center Will Hold
I am sitting in the usual spot, participating in the Zoom meeting, listening to each person as they describe the events of the past week. Someone has hosted a socially distant ice-cream party and was happy to see neighbors come by just for the opportunity to reconnect. Another is working with a veteran teacher who is passionate about developing a school curriculum that helps children to learn the skills of creating and sustaining purposeful friendships. Still another reports on some efforts at fundraising that will help secure more computers for use in the afterschool program.
Everyone gathered at the Community Renewal leadership meeting has stories to tell. Their eyes are bright with excitement as they recount the ways that their efforts have fostered connection among neighbors. They have been at this work for years now and remember the way things used to be: people living inside their homes, isolated and, in some places, afraid.
Someone reflects on the way that the people at the meeting—young and old, Black and White—are already living what Jesus talked about when he observed that the kingdom is at hand, right under our noses. We are living in times of deep divisions, he says, and yet here we are, at this meeting, loving each other and loving our neighbors into wholeness.
The people gathered soak in that message. One woman, a lifelong teacher who works with adults returning to school, recalls growing up many decades ago. She recalls the deep, entrenched racism that existed when she was a girl. “It took me seven years to lose that edge,” she says, speaking of working in a multiracial organization that builds friendships and heals communities. “But I am so glad to be part of this work now. It gives me hope.”
The others in the meeting hang on her words. Some reach out with a virtual hug, while others express in words how much they love her and are so happy for the gifts she brings to the work of renewal.
Eventually the meeting steers around again to business. Trainings must be done; after-school programs must happen; virtual tours must continue. Everyone has a job.
Most of the jobs are fairly simple: writing this, sending that, meeting these people, planning that event. At the meetings, the participants cherish each other and the work they are doing. And every now and again, they recall with awe that what they are doing is nothing short of building a kingdom.