Commentary

Be a repairer of the breach in your own neighborhood

I’m going to transform the world. I’m serious about this.

I live in North Minneapolis and teach in a school eight blocks from home.
The community around me is crying out in anguish. Families are separated by
immigration laws. Young mothers are caught in the perils of poverty.

Children suffer from high rates of asthma and obesity. The elderly experience
the deterioration of public institutions all around them. These factors all swirl
together to create a sense of hopelessness.

More than the state of the neighborhood, what convinced me about the need
for a revival was society’s responses to the cries of the poor. I heard
messages about fear and scarcity, messages about individual responsibility
that blamed the neighbors I grew to love. These societal responses to the
wounds of the world are not consistent with the faith traditions I hold. I had
a momentary faith crisis. I wondered: Where is the church that nurtured me
in my childhood now?! In my anguish I realized it was not only time for a
transformation of our communities, but also time for personal
transformations.

God is amazing. As I was screaming out in spiritual pain, my pastor and my
friends at church pulled me into ISAIAH. ISAIAH is a coalition of 90 churches
in the metro area (reaching to St. Cloud) working on racial and economic
justice. Together leaders in ISAIAH unmasked the values from the dominant
frame and searched for an alternative based on our faith traditions.

Our faith traditions provide the path for this radical transformation. In the
book of Isaiah it was said, “Behold! I am doing a new thing. It springs forth;
Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the
wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

In the gospels once Jesus announced his vision for his ministry, he reminded
us it had already come true. The transformation of the world is happening
whenever individuals and faith communities join in living the vision outlined
by Jesus. I commit my spirit to a God who proclaims to make all things new.
In that process I am made new, and my world is made new.

The momentum for the transformation of our world is building. Working in
solidarity with one another we contribute to the success of the
transformation when we align our values and our practices with the Master
who lived among us so many years ago.

Instead of fear, we can see hope in God’s power to work through us for the
sake of all. Instead of scarcity we can believe in an abundance of gifts God
shares with us all. Instead of making decisions based on isolation and a set of
narrow self-interests, we can make holy decisions based on the common
good. Our souls are magnified when the common good of all God’s people
becomes for us the underriding principle that guides our existence.

In the United States, we claim a democracy that is the vehicle to create a
public life. But as leaders in ISAIAH unpacked what democracy means, we saw
the foundations under our democracy as deeper than a philosophy of civics.
We believe we are called into a sacred human community. We bear witness to
God’s constant and eternal call to sacred community, but we live at a time in
our political system in which we must bring our spiritual values into the
center of our common public life. By bringing those faithful values into the
world, our churches also become stronger.

Every generation must decide what legacy they will leave. I’m making my
decision. I’m going to transform the world. Five thousand other people of
faith will declare their decision as well in October at ISAIAH’s gathering “Time
to Believe: Faith in Democracy.” It will be a revival alive with music, worship,
fellowship, and vision. We will transform the world, ourselves, and therefore
our churches.

Come to the revival. Come with your faith community. Come with your family
and friends who don’t practice their faith in a church community. Come to
“Re-Discover” the faith and excitement of your youth, when we believed
anything was possible.

Being involved with ISAIAH is a re-awakening of those feelings by working
with others who share common values and the belief that God is alive and
well, and leading us to transform ourselves and our community. The
gathering in the metro area will be October 12, 2008, from 3:00-5:30 at the
St. Paul River Center, 175 Kellogg Blvd. The gathering in St. Cloud will be
October 14, 2008.

Aneesa M. Parks is a teacher in the Minneapolis school system.