Our faith tells us that the physical spaces we inhabit matter.
Our presence in our community matters. After all, God “became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” The incarnation is nothing if not a statement on the necessity of embodied presence. Which is why presence is one of our driving values at Ace in the City.
But we must remember that when talking about presence, posture is everything.
We can build the most amazing physical spaces, develop the most compelling programs, and cultivate the most talented and passionate team of people, but if our posture is wrong, not only do those resources and their potential go to waste, we’ll also cause great harm to our neighbors. One thinks of the suburban megachurch parachuting into an urban context to plant yet another campus.
To truly be present in our neighborhoods in a way that reflects the love and goodness of God, we must examine our posture and swallow a whole lot of pride by assuming we probably have more to learn from the community than it has to learn from us.
We also must shift the narratives that guide our work. In their book, To Alter Your World, Michael Frost and Christiana Rice encourage us to abandon the conquering/militaristic stories that call us to “take back our city for God,” and instead see ourselves as midwives of the new world that God is birthing in our midst.
As Frost and Rice put it, when we engage our community with the posture of a midwife, “our task isn’t to get God to do something that we think needs to be done, but rather to become aware of what God is already doing so that we can participate in it… We begin to release our agendas, we stop trying to control the situation, and we work to cultivate a more attentive, less domineering stance.”
Friends, may we let go of our agendas to “fix” our communities and instead embrace our calling as midwives—humbly present and participating in the life-giving reality God is already birthing in our midst.