Two weeks ago I joined Hillary and the kids at Mechanics Hall for a “brown bag” concert series. It runs during the lunch hour and is sponsored by local businesses. The pictures are inadequate in describing this awesome venue with great acoustics and stunning aesthetics. I’m continuing to learn more about Worcester as I speak with people from various sectors of the city and different walks of life. Here are a few more pieces of the puzzle…
Locals For it’s size, Worcester has a much more local feel than cities like Providence or Hartford. It seems like there are a lot of people who grew up here and never left, left and came back, or who are married to someone who has roots in Worcester. On the other side of this are those with no familial connection to the area and feel on the outside. One woman who moved here with her husband almost ten years ago said that it wasn’t worth trying to befriend couples who both have roots in Worcester. You’ll never belong in their world. There is this small town vibe that pops up in Worcester that is both attractive and off-putting at times.
“Old Boy Network” This is tied into the previous theme of locals and has been repeated by various people with whom I’ve spoken. There seems to be a certain set of people who, for a number of years, have held power or shaped who has access to it. Tied into this sense of a consolidated group who has influence is a seeming indifference or unwillingness to participate by those on the “outside.” Speaking with one of the African American pastors in the city, he said that of the 12-13,000 African Americans in the city usually about 2,000 vote in local elections. He went on to say that whatever network of power there is in the city is reinforced by the large number who do not vote and therefore need not be heeded. In speaking with a representative of one of the many non-profits here he said that their board (~100 people) had only one minority member. There are more pieces of this puzzle that I’m piecing together. Various networks will always develop, both for ill and for the benefit of the community, and I am thinking about the perspective that the bible takes on sharing and holding power.
Hope & fear Where is Worcester headed? Do its strengths balance out the weaknesses? Have we made it past the tipping point where we are gaining momentum or do we have our hands full of good things that we’re about to drop and break? Some people will exhibit more optimism and others more apprehension, but everyone seems to have a some of both. There is a longing to believe better days are ahead of the city but a reticence to do so in the light of the many challenges that this post-industrial cities faces. This area of longing and fear is one where God continues to give me inspiration for our church. Christians have an eternal city with God and can live in challenging circumstances with both realism and hope. Christians can love and serve the city of Worcester, working for its good, certain of God’s care. When we buy a home here it may work out well or property values may plummet. When we educate our children, participate in community service, join hands with local agencies and intertwine our lives with the life of Worcester we may help this city take the right steps forward or be pulled down in the next stumble. Both have happened to Christians and neither will be our ultimate hope or ruin…
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8