We live believing that the Word has become flesh in Jesus and has shown us a new way of being, begun the inbreaking of the realm of God on earth. When it is complete, it will be the heavenly city where the river of life flows and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. It will be the place where we can say "All Lives Matter" because there is no doubt that all are truly treated like they do.
It will be the place where there is no crime because none will feel the need. Where there is no homelessness because none will be without shelter. Where there is no poverty because all will give to each other out of our shared abundance whatever we need.
Our job and our joy as followers of Jesus is, infused with God's grace, to share with God the building of "thy kingdom come, " to take part in what our Jewish sisters and brothers call tikkun olam or "the repair of the world."
But we are not there yet. We live in the in between time between when the vision has been seen and set in motion and before it is realized. And every day we have to negotiate ethics for what living in that in between time means.
Beginning last night, we posted this sign ->->->
on a sandwich board in front of Christ Church Cathedral.
This sign is an icon of the now and the not yet. We dream of Christ Church Cathedral being a place where all can safely gather -- because God's welcoming love is always safe love. However, the reality we live in is that during times where we don't have security present (and at this point we can't afford 24-hour security), things have been happening on our Cathedral steps that aren't safe. We have been getting multiple reports of drug dealing, fighting, passers-by (particularly women) being harassed and even assault.
We also recognize that there are people who seek the shelter of a night's sleep around the Cathedral building. These are people who have told us they don't feel safe in the neighborhood shelters -- and we believe them. So while we long for (and are actively working toward) the day when all will have a safe bed, we do not wish to turn them away or criminalize homelessness by having the police charge them with trespassing while they are just trying to get some sleep.
We have also heard from some people who spend the night outside the Cathedral that they feel frightened and unsafe by some of those who gather on the Cathedral steps later at night.
So, after all these conversations -- with people who sleep around the Cathedral, with neighborhood residents, with people who hang out at the steps in the evening and later at night (a crowd that from night-to-night or week-to-week can change radically), and with our fourth district police officers, we agreed to try these signs for two weeks and to give the police the authority to disperse gatherings on the Cathedral steps between 9 pm and 6 am. We also asked them NOT to bother the people who are sleeping in the alcoves on the sides. The police have expressed concern that the people who have been gathering on the steps will then kick those sleeping in the alcoves out and begin to use those spaces and we have asked the police to let us know if they see that happening.
We believe Christ gives us stewardship of this building for the common good -- for the gathering of the people for the repair of the world and in the love of God that is always, always welcoming and safe. We are taking these steps because we believe the "safe" piece of that has been compromised and without safety, any welcome we offer is false at best and dangerous at worst.
We have also been clear in the conversations with neighbors and the police that enforcing a curfew on the Cathedral steps is not a solution but merely playing "whack-a-mole" with a larger problem. We need to ask the sacred question: Why?
Why are people dealing drugs?
Why are people carrying guns?
Why are people behaving abusively toward one another?
*Why do some people have to sleep outside?
We need to ask why and not be satisfied merely with the response that fits our preconceived notions and prejudices. We need to ask why and commit to the real tikkun olam, the transformation of the structures of the world that a revolutionary Jesus calls us to. The revolution of our broken school systems (and how we fund them) and culture of guns and violence and incarceration and misogyny and overprivilege.
If you are interested in getting more involved with the Cathedral community that lives in and around our building at night, it's pretty easy to do.
*You can just talk to one another as we come to worship on Sundays, particularly engaging people across class lines.
*You can contact Jeff Goldone (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Muffin Rowlyk (email@example.com) and get involved with our "Cross-Class Conversation" ministry.
*You can contact Joanne Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org) and support the Cathedral Housing Partnership, which is working to end homelessness one person, one relationship at a time with a housing first model.
*You can donate to St. Patrick Center (http://www.stpatrickcenter.org/get-involved/donate/) and The Bridge (http://www.bridgestl.org/) and support their work to help people move from homelessness to housing.
*When you have friends, co-workers and family members who talk about how terrible and dangerous downtown is, you can stand up and say that downtown is wonderful and full of wonderful people and that they should join you coming to Christ Church Cathedral on a Sunday or any day and see for themselves and to not be bound by their fear.
There is much we can do in our own labors of tikkun olam. We are a long way from the "not yet" of the heavenly Jerusalem but we can rejoice that the destination is assured.
Living in the now means we are under the law even as we are leaning in trust into grace. And that's what we're trying to do here.