Yesterday, John raised the question: what are the standards by which we make decisions and judge the health of a church community in a peak oil world?
This question has been a pressing one for us at Englewood Christian Church, one that has regularly been the focus of our Sunday night conversation (the story of which I told in the recent ebook The Virtue of Dialogue). As I suggested in the comments to John’s post, our experience has been that the standard should be the health and flourishing of our places, our church communities should bear witness to the neighbors in our particular place that God is bringing shalom.
One of the areas in which we have worked to bear witness to the coming of God’s shalom is working with our neighbors to launch a food co-op in our neighborhood, which was not long ago, a food desert. Pogue’s Run Grocer is the product of the efforts of neighbors throughout the Near Eastside working together, but it has been an effort in which we as a church have been deeply invested from the outset. A local group has just made available a beautiful video that introduces the co-op and elegantly frames its mission. I’m delighted to give you a little peek into our neighborhood here:
The story of the food co-op is one I often tell when talking with groups about Englewood’s work in our neighborhood. I have been struck by the creativity and persistence of the co-op in navigating the tensions between the competing objectives of on one hand, providing high-quality, local and organic foods, and on the other hand being a neighborhood grocery store in an area with a fairly low median family income. One of the many creative solutions that the store has established is stocking Red Gold tomato products, which is a conventional line of canned tomato products, but which also are grown and packaged here in Indiana. These tomato products are affordable and familiar for the neighborhood shopper on a tight budget, but they are are also better choices in terms of their carbon footprint and their support of regional agriculture. These tricky kind of decisions can only be worked out in conversation. Our experience as a church here on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis, has been that working toward the health and flourishing of our places regularly calls us into these sorts of slow and messy conversations. And I imagine that churches that have taken seriously their call to similar work in other places could share their own stories of slowly seeking the shalom of God in conversation with their neighbors.