Sunday, October 26, 2014

After Four Months as a Part-time Pastor

A reflection on serving East Tenth United Methodist Church

East Tenth UMC has some really striking old stained
glass in its 1911 structure. The simplicity of the old
sanctuary invites contemplation and reverence.
I've been serving part-time as Pastor of East Tenth United Methodist Church since the first of July. These four months have flown by. Though the time I have to invest is very limited, I enjoy preaching and facilitating weekly services again, as well as basic pastoral care. I also enjoy participating in the open community dinners the church hosts every Sunday evening. Forty or so folks attend the 10:45 am service, but about 100 nearby neighbors come for good food and gracious hospitality at 5:00 pm each Sunday evening.

The work I have committed myself to in leading Near East Area Renewal is top priority for me, but the fact that NEAR is developing affordable housing and building community relationships within St. Clair Place--the neighborhood in which East Tenth UMC is located--creates good synergies. Both keeping the two roles separate and working the angles of them together when appropriate is a fun challenge.

I've been following the full range of Sunday by Sunday readings from the Revised Common Lectionary and preaching from one of the texts. I'd forgotten how intriguing and fun this can be. Each week is an adventure as I let the texts work on me through the course of my daily work in the community. Throughout the summer and early autumn, I've preached from the Old Testament stories in Genesis and Exodus. They naturally reflect on the history of salvation and the liberating acts of God that create opportunities for community.

These are lovable and caring people. On the one hand, disparate, few, and somewhat fragile; on the other hand, steady, informed, and with a persistent sense of belonging. My sense is that they've hung in there through an unusually high series of pastoral changes and unusually diverse range of pastors. I'd like to think that I could offer them a long-term pastoral tenure, even as part-time, but we'll take it one year at a time. First things first.

I've been fascinated by East Tenth since my days of serving at Shepherd Community in the 1980's. East Tenth represented to me a church that "gets" loving its community and neighbors. It still does. I've enjoyed friendship across the years with its 1990's pastor Darren Cushman-Wood (now Senior Pastor at North UMC). I've enjoyed my numerous opportunities to preach at East Tenth when its pastors have been away. I never imagined serving as pastor of this historic urban neighborhood congregation.

My sense of the East Tenth Street UMC community is that it's life and future is connected intimately with it being turned inside out in neighborly love in the larger Near Eastside community. It's own internal life is limited, but it's direct and indirect reach into the community is rich. I imagine a spiritual formation that reflects an historic Wesleyan ethos and first-generation Methodist practice of social holiness and service to low-income and at-risk neighbors.

At the same time, I am anxious to initiate a few home-based small groups or clusters that will reflect something of the class meetings that also historically defined and catapulted Methodism to its earlier effectiveness. Accountability and encouragement within a group of 8-12 people meeting weekly is a powerful thing. We'll see how that develops over the next six months.

In all, I've clearly bitten off more than I can chew. I cannot invest the time I feel is needed to turn some corners that need to be turned. I accepted the assignment thinking I could help the church remain viable and grow as one of the last mainline congregations on the Near Eastside. There is a slew of new neighbors in St. Clair Place to consider. New folks are attending church steadily and core church folks are clearly and naturally expressing care in the nearby community. This is promising to me. I hope growth and renewal continues. For now, I'm just happy to be reconnected and serving. After being on the bench or sidelines for a few years, I think it's good for my own soul.

If you're not doing anything on Sundays at 10:45 am, you might enjoy what we're up to at East Tenth.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Monday, October 20, 2014

Grace in Autumn

Wendell Berry reflects on autumn's glory in the woods

A brief bicycle ride in nearby Eagle Creek Park brings the presence and power of autumn to my senses: the crisp-cool air, vibrant colors, falling and fallen leaves, and a realization of this necessary dying turn of life's cycle. Later, I came across this poem by Wendell Berry titled, simply, "Grace."

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking,
the way is the same. Be still. Be still.
"He moves your bones, and the way is clear."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Autumn as Metaphor

Parker J. Palmer challenges us to see the paradox of dying and seeding in this incredible season

"Autumn is a season of great beauty, but is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer's abundance decays toward winter's death.  Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn?  She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring--and she scatters them with amazing abandon."

"In my own experience of autumn, I am rarely aware that seeds are being planted.  In the autumnal events of my own experience, I am easily fixated on surface experiences--on the decline of meaning, the decay of relationships, the death of a vocation.  And yet, if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come."

"In retrospect, I can see in my own life what I could not see at the time--how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the 'road closed' sign turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to know. On the surface it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sewn."

"In a culture that prefers the ease of either/or thinking to the complexities of paradox, we have a hard time holding opposites together.  We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, and the Faustian bargains we make fail to sustain our lives."

"When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more terrifying as we try to hold it off.  Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. But if we allow the paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring wholeness and health to every living thing."

From The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb.  Parker Palmer's books include Let Your Life Speak, The Active Life, In the Company of Strangers, and The Courage to Teach.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Welcome, Autumn

I love autumn. I'm always looking for writings and poetry about the season. I've found quite a few that I've shared on this indybikehiker blog over the years. Word search "autumn" on my blog and see what all turns up.

The following poem will show up frequently. I wrote it in 2006 and I've posted it every autumn since. It's my personal celebration of this season and my nudge to every reader to embrace its possibilities.

On the brink of autumn,

A hint of chill in the air,
The sun’s setting sooner,
In a few days we’ll be there

Where green turns to golden
And reapers harvest the yield,
Where dry leaves are falling
And flocking fowl arc the fields.

Then we’ll don our jackets
And brace ourselves for the wind
That rustles through branches
And billows our souls again.

Do not shrink back from fall;
Embrace this gilded season
As a grace that descends;
A gift to all from heaven.

It’s time for returning,
For in-bringing and burning,
For heart walks in deep woods,
For distilling, discerning.

What’s muddled becomes clear
And all chaff is left exposed
As autumn’s sun glows bright
And a harvest moon shines cold.

We may shed pretenses
And travel a lighter way
Our hearts as crisp as leaves
That lift and then sail away.

As we are being turned,
Turn—facing all the changes,
The falling, the cooling,
And the encroaching darkness.

Lean into the season
Lest it overtake your way.
Let your soul be opened;
Relish its gift this fall day.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The End of Violence

Amid retaliatory violence in Gaza and Israel, blood baths in CAR, beheadings by ISIS, and American leaders vowing vengeance, I lift up the contrast and clarity Gil Bailie brings to this pathological death spiral.

METASTASIS OF THE CANCER OF VIOLENCE. Gil Bailie’s book Violence Unveiled would be a timely read right now if you have not read it. Particularly if one thinks that America can continue to use violence for the good without being negatively affected by it, Bailie is helpful. "The gospel's insistence on forgiveness is both profound and pragmatic, but we cannot fully appreciate either until we realize how routinely moral indignation leads to the replication of the behavior that aroused the indignation. Righteous indignation is often the first symptom of the metastasis of the cancer of violence."

HISTORY'S MOST FUNDAMENTAL DILEMMA. "Violence is immensely compelling. Those who witness spectacles of violence can be seduced by its logic even when -- perhaps especially when -- they are morally scandalized by it. Violence is labyrinthine. It turns back on itself in serpentine ways. The paths that seem to exist from its madness so often lead deeper into its maze. Violence is literally a-mazing. The traditional way of resisting evil causes the contagion of evil to spread, perpetrated by those who are most determined to eradicate it. How to resist evil in ways that prevent its spread is now history's most fundamental dilemma."

THE CRUX OF HUMAN DESTINY. "Both Christianity's scriptural sources and its creedal formulae pivot around a public execution, an act of official violence regarded as legally righteous by the political authorities and as a sacred duty by the religionists. The Christian Scriptures and creeds make the outlandish assertion that because of this public execution the grip of sin has been broken, the human race has been offered a new lease on life and, at the same time, placed in grave peril if it refuses the offer."

ONLY ONE THING CAN FREE US. "By moral effort alone one cannot free oneself from the grip of violence. The logos of conventional culture consists of so pervasive a web of conditioned reflexes that we remain largely oblivious of its influence. If we are to be freed from it, something from outside the cultural mix must break in on us. Structurally and anthropologically speaking, there is only one thing truly outside this matrix: the victim whose expulsion brought the system into being in the first place, the stone rejected by the builders of all culture, the Lamb slain since the foundation of the world."

ALREADY AND NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED. "The spiritual and anthropological revolution set in motion by the crucifixion is a glacial process the driving force of which is the 'Spirit of Truth,' -- the Paraclete (John 16:7-8). It was to be the task of this Spirit of Truth to gradually 'accomplish' historically what was 'accomplished' in the hearts of Jesus' disciples at the crucifixion and in the days that followed it."

THE QUESTION IS... And so here we are, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with self-righteous violence continuing to be justified and used--now in the name of so-called Christian nations. At the same time, the Spirit of Truth continues to deal with and convince hearts of what was clear on day One. The question is, as ones who have been freed from the cycle of violence by the slain yet ever-living Lamb, why would we ever again engage in or approve of violence as a means to a desirable end?

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Sunday, August 31, 2014

This God

I love the way Annie Dillard whimsically confronts the paradox of what we often refer to as "acts of God."

RING OF TRUTH.  Because of her marvelous imagery and meandering, non-linear manner, it is hard to find sound bytes that do Annie Dillard justice.  She is always noticing, studying, reflecting, connecting, and moving on without having tied things down for the reader.  She opens your mind and heart and touches resistant places but does not bring easy closure to such exposure.  Her writing has the ring of truth without impaling or domesticating it.  The following snippet is a three-second lap from a gushing 200-page fire hydrant titled For the Time Being (1999, Knopf).  Pay close attention to her very last sentence.  Very interesting.

WHAT GOD DOESN’T DO.  “God is no more blinding people with glaucoma, or testing them with diabetes, or purifying them with spinal pain, or choreographing the seeding of tumor cells through lymph, or fiddling with chromosomes, than he is jimmying floodwaters or pitching tornadoes at towns.  God is no more cogitating which among us he plans to place here as bird-headed dwarfs or elephant men—or to kill by AIDS or kidney failure, heart disease, childhood leukemia, or sudden infant death syndrome—than he is pitching lightning bolts at pedestrians, triggering rock slides, or setting fires.  The very least likely things for which God might be responsible are what insurers call ‘acts of God.’”

OUT OF THE LOOP?  “Then what, if anything, does he do?  If God does not cause everything that happens, does God cause anything that happens?  Is God completely out of the loop?”

NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES.  “Sometimes God moves loudly, as if spinning to another place like ball lightning.  God is, oddly, personal; this God knows.  Sometimes en route, dazzlingly or dimly, he shows an edge of himself to souls who seek him, and the people who bear those souls, marveling, know it, and see the skies carousing around them, and watch cells stream and multiply in green leaves.  He does not give as the world gives; he leads invisibly over many years, or he wallops for thirty seconds at a time.”

GIFT AND RESPONSE.  “He may touch a mind, too, making a loud sound, or a mind may feel the rim of his mind as he nears.  Such experiences are gifts to beginners.  ‘Later on,’ a Hasid master said, ‘you don’t see these things anymore.’  (Having seen, people of varying cultures turn—for reasons unknown, and by a mechanism unimaginable—to aiding and serving the afflicted and poor.)”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Work is Good

Heading into Labor Day, I'm thinking about work. What's its meaning? What might it express of ourselves, of our faith? This includes some of my favorite quotes on work.

Jesuit and archeologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reflections on the nature
of work resonate with me. Nothing of our work, said Teilhard, lies outside
the realm of the sacred and it all matters in the outcome of things.
Work and workplaces have been on my mind a lot lately.  Why do we work?  Do we work to work? To gain an income? To provide for our families? To express ourselves?  To learn?  To grow? To serve? To welcome God’s future? As co-laboring with God?  Why do you work?  Why do I work?  Perhaps it is one or a mix of these motivations.

WORK AS INSTRUMENTAL.  Listen to Parker Palmer mull over the question:  “Our capacity to take risks and learn from them depends heavily on whether we understand action as instrumental or expressive. The instrumental image portrays action as a means to predetermined ends, as an instrument or tool of our intentions.  The only possible measure of such action is whether it achieves the ends at which it is aimed.  Instrumental action always wants to win, but win or lose, it inhibits our learning. When the standards of instrumentalism dominate, our action is impoverished and our lives are diminished.” 

WORK AS EXPRESSIVE.  “Only when we act expressively do we move toward full aliveness and authentic power.  An expressive act is one that I take not to achieve a goal outside myself but to express a conviction, a leading, a truth that is within me. An expressive act is one taken because if I did not take it I would be denying my own insight, nature, gift.  By taking an expressive act, an act not obsessed with outcomes, I come closer to making the contribution that is mine to make in the scheme of things.” (from The Active Life, p. 24)

GOOD, WORLDLY WORK.  I remember the fear I had when, based on my freshly developed personal mission statement, I dared to come from behind the pulpit and walls of the church to step into the so-called “common world of work.” I did so not in denial of my calling or ordination, but in a sense of leaning into it more fully. At that point, for me to remain as a parish pastor would have been hiding or shrinking back from things I needed to learn, explore, and, perhaps, contribute.  My training for ministry prepared me to see ministerial and church activity as sacred work, but I have since discovered that “common, ordinary work” is also--and perhaps especially--the arena of sacredness.  But I have discovered that many ministers and “lay people” do not realize or seem to express this.

GERARD MANLY HOPKINS ON WORK.  I like this reflection by Gerard Manly Hopkins“It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work.  Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, painting a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty.  To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop-pail, give God glory too.  God is so great that all things give glory if you mean they should. So then, my brethren, live."

PRAYER FOR THE UNEMPLOYED.  “Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this community so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”  from The Book of Common Prayer

PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN ON WORK.  "The closeness of our union with Him is in fact determined by the exact fulfillment of the least of our tasks.  God, in all that is most living and incarnate in Him, is not far away from us, altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste about us. Rather, He awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment. There is a sense in which He is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle-of my heart and of my thought.  By pressing the stroke, the line, or the stitch, on which I am engaged, to its ultimate natural finish, I shall lay hold of that last end toward which my innermost will tends." from The Divine Milieu

WORKING SONG. Hear 18th-century London laborers sing this Charles Wesley song as they walk to work:

Son of the carpenter, receive
     This humble work of mine;
Worth to my meanest labor give
     By joining it to Thine.

End of my ev’ry action Thou,
     In all things Thee I see.
Accept my hallowed labor now;
     I do it unto Thee.

Thy bright example I pursue,
     To Thee in all things rise;
And all I think or speak or do
     Is one great sacrifice.

Servant of all, to toil for man
     Thou didst not, Lord, refuse;
Thy majesty did not disdain
     To be employed for us.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer's End?

When does summer end?

In our local school district's eyes, summer break concluded the first week of August. For kids around here, summer is by now a distant memory. But, according to the seasonal calendar, summer officially continues for several more weeks.

In my mind, summer ends with Labor Day. That's the seasonal gear shift. Perhaps this marker carries over from my childhood, when school ended with Memorial Day and convened after Labor Day.

So, as much as possible, I try to stay in a summer state of mind until after Labor Day. I keep a deliberate pace, a lighter schedule, and a recreational outlook. Often, these intentions get sabotaged by urgent deadlines or projects, but not too easily.

It's not that I dread fall--autumn is my favorite time of the year. It's that I imagine the fullness of summer is good for the sake of our soul's health.

Let's not rush on. Linger with the day until its end. Savor its blessings. Consider its lessons. Release its conflicts. Then, having rested, welcome the new day and a new season with a larger, grateful heart.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Response to Ferguson

Whatever is known or not known, whatever is clear or unclear, whatever has been or will be felt or said or done in the aftermath of Ferguson, this is true:

“The Hebrew scriptures have a very simple and direct message: God always hears the cry of the oppressed; God cares about human suffering and the conditions that cause it.

“God is searching for a body, a community of people to care for the things God cares about.  God gives power and blessing so that justice and righteousness will be upheld for those who are denied them.  This is what God is like.  This is what God is about.  This is who God is.

“To forget this, to fail to hear the cry, to preserve prosperity at the expense of the powerless, is to miss what God has in mind.”

                Rob Bell and Don Golden in Jesus Wants to Save Christians

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rebuilding Urban Neighborhoods from the Inside Out

Principles for comprehensive community development and urban neighborhood renewal

I’m convinced there’s never been a better time to invest in urban neighborhoods. Having served in a range of community and faith-based organizations in urban communities, I recently delved afresh into readings, research and conversations related to urban community revitalization. I am inspired by emerging possibilities.

Urban community development is a fascinating arena, full of hope and challenge. For all its promise, it's not an arena for the faint of heart; lots of crosscurrents are at work in the polis. At the same time, organizations, communities and individuals are attempting and expressing the very best in urban community development.

As I’ve examined the underpinnings of organizations and initiatives that are attempting to revitalize urban core communities, and as I’ve explored best practices resources, a few principles emerge for me. I hope to have further opportunities to articulate and shape these in practice, but I want to share them here--even if in embryonic form. It seems to me that these ideas apply not just to urban neighborhoods, but to more difficult and complex suburban ones. This is about as close to a community manifesto as I get.

1. All who desire urban community renewal and vital neighborhoods should consider the significant non-monetary costs and investments: relationship building, careful process, time, personal challenge, disappointments, agitations. These investments payoff well, but they should not be overlooked or avoided.

2. There is a way to rehab and build houses that brings neighbors into emerging relationship and grows healthy neighborhoods. If houses and landmark buildings are going to be rehabbed and restored anyway, why not do so in a way that builds relationships and makes community itself a landmark? Instead of following the pattern of most real estate developers, follow--and insist on--a process that reflects the community-building mission. 

3. It is easier to build houses and buildings than build enduring relationships and integrity with neighbors. Without these, community is just a place and a concept, not a relational reality. Investment in urban neighborhood renewal needs to account for and give attention to good process and relationship development with and among neighbors and organizations.

4. Good design and master planning can go halfway to develop inviting and livable urban neighborhoods, but it needs to be met halfway with relationship building. We like the aesthetics of well-designed structures in relationship to others. But it is the aesthetic of caring neighbors makes a community shine.

5. More people than we care to admit have lost their sense of place and community—and not just in urban neighborhoods. Being a consumer, patron and spectator doesn't begin to satisfy the desire to belong, contribute and shape the future that lies at the heart of all of us.  The continuing effort to include, invite, welcome, make room, recognize and celebrate—drawing the circle ever wider—brings all into a new and hopeful social reality.

6. Organizationally, nonprofits gain trust with neighbors and stakeholders when they act with humility, gratitude and creativity. These trump the hubris, expert-itis and authority plays that too frequently spill over into the arena from bad for-profit and public sector actors. Community-based organizations are most effective when their collective way of being is reflected in an “alongsideness” with neighbors and neighborhood groups.

7. Government and for-profit sectors can be good partners and stakeholders in urban community revitalization. As neighbors dream of community, look out for it, or seek to preserve or restore, they need critical stakeholders whose self-interest may be different than a neighbor’s or neighborhood’s. If urban communities are to be restored, community and faith-based nonprofits and fourth-sector associations of neighbors must articulate and fight for their dream. They can welcome partners, but they must lead the way.

8. Doing the right thing in the right way is one thing in the for-profit and public sector, but the “right thing” (leadership) and the “right ways” (management) may be quite different in an urban community redevelopment setting. It is a mistake to impose a “business knows best” grid on community-based initiatives. Instead, look for collaborations and partnerships in which all sectors learn from each other in this fascinating arena of urban community renewal. Though the process and path may be different than the one for-profit or public sector partners would prefer, the mutually-desired outcome of invested, livable, sustainable urban communities are the better, long-term outcome.

9. Renewing and taking seriously the principles and practices of Asset-Based Community Development can reinvigorate urban planning protocols and practices that say “asset-based” but may have deteriorated into satisfying report forms and getting projects completed on time. Recovery of rudimentary ABCD practices catapults community development toward its intended reality.

10. Organizations, partners, neighborhoods, and neighbors find synergy when they cross borders and build bridges between and among themselves. Connecting in every direction, like learning in every direction, creates common ground and possibilities for community realization (with its natural efficiencies and power) that could not otherwise be attempted.

11. Pressing challenges of urban neighborhood revitalization remain: (1) grappling head-on with the sources and impacts of economic poverty, (2) access to livable-wage employment and the education, readiness and advocacy which make that possible, (3) addressing reentry for thousands of ex-felons in a way that offers livable-wage work and reintegration without unreasonable life-long barriers and stigmas, and (4) cooperative and responsive public safety. I am convinced that creative solutions and pathways forward will be found and best shaped from within urban neighborhoods who put ABCD to work.

John Franklin Hay, D.Min., is Executive Director of Near East Area Renewal (NEAR,, Associate Faculty at Indiana University’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (IUPUI), and Pastor of East Tenth United Methodist Church (

John Franklin Hay 

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Community Lovers

I wrote this in 1996. It's just as valid today.

I started the following poem in 1996. It flows out of my observations of volunteers and community advocates as I worked and served on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. It reflects some of the urban neighborhood folk—like Ruth Shaw, Jerry King, Merri Anderson, and John Kanouse—who have modeled for me what it means to seek and love community. 

Returning to this poem and the Near Eastside 18 years later, the sprit and truth of this reflection is just as valid. 

Community lovers:
neighbors falling in love
with a hard-to-describe sense of community.

Each expresses it diversely:
one restores a house,
another canvasses door to door,
another finds herself mildly enduring
long meetings to represent her block’s concerns,
another keeps the grapevine fresh with
friendly half-truths about other neighbors,
another braves wind and cold to
help children cross the street.

Sometimes these like-hearted neighbors connect,
but usually they don’t.
The efforts of community lovers are neither
programmed nor orchestrated.
Still, their impact is not lost.

From the four corners of the community
unseen efforts speak for themselves and
buoy fragile neighborhoods,
drive back fear,
instigate change,
engender education,
reduce would-be tragedies,
symbolize hope.

Community lovers do not often get loved back.
Pet programs do not get funded,
ideas get unduly criticized,
surefire solutions die on the vine,
hours of labor get overlooked.

But community lovers are hooked on community;
they love it anyway.
They will find a way
to love,
to serve,
to invest,
to make a difference.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Slipping into Summer

The gear shifts subtly but noticeably and welcomingly

We’re slipping into summer. Can you feel it? Life shifts from overdrive to a lower gear. Though the engine may rev on for a while, everything around us is beckoning: slower, slower, slower.

A DIFFERENT RHYTHM. We’re being coaxed into a season that invites a different rhythm. Instead of pre-dawn rushes to get out to the school bus or off to the clinic and then bracing for a full range of evening activities every weeknight, folks in the Hay household are gradually easing off the accelerator. Mad dashes aren't demanded...for a while, at least.

SUMMER STATE OF MIND. It’s not that there aren’t things to do (thank goodness we haven’t yet heard “I’m bored), it’s that there aren’t so many things scheduled so tightly, so early, so conflictingly. It’s a welcome break, even if it’s still a pressing pace that would leave most folks weary by midweek. Becky's able to spend the time she'd like working around the yard. The kids sit around the glow coming from the backyard fire pit at dusk. We talk as we kick a soccer ball around a circle. The kitchen is a gathering place of friends and, with it, necessary clutter. The grill, unused for the past eight months, is getting a workout. And even our summer-long family project—getting ready for Abby’s August wedding—seems more manageable in a summer state of mind.

WALK IN STEP WITH SUMMER. We’re slipping into summer. I perceive this as a good thing. It’s a state of being. It’s a condition of the mind and heart. Not a carelessness, it is more an intentional deliberateness and spacing. It is not taking it easy, but taking time for re-creation, re-formation, restoration, renewal, and relationships. Ignored or resisted in some cultures or by some households, I’m convinced that accepting and embracing summer is as important to relationships and health as it is to economies and spirituality. I hope you will recognize summer’s unique graces during these months. Perhaps the breakthroughs long-worked for will emerge serendipitously, surprisingly, graciously as you walk in step with summer.

[I wrote this in 2008]

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Keep Holy Cross Open

My letter to Indianapolis Archbishop Tobin

Dear Archbishop Tobin,

Greetings. I am writing in hopes that you will consider the positive community impact of the Holy Cross Parish and the loss of this, should you follow through on your decision to close it.

Both as a Protestant pastor and as a community leader, I have served Near Eastside neighbors and neighborhoods since 1987. My encounters with and work alongside Holy Cross Parish members and church leaders in compassion and social change efforts has been a constant testimony to Christ’s visible presence in our community. It is as if the congregation’s unique spirit has faithfully, extraordinarily produced fruit in neighbors loving mercy and doing justice in this particular place.

I now serve as Executive Director of Near East Area Renewal (NEAR), a nonprofit community development corporation (CDC) that develops community as we create great places for neighbors. After many years of decline in households and population, the Near Eastside—and particularly the near-downtown, west end of it—is beginning to increase in a diverse income and cultural mix of households. Properties have stabilized and new investments are being made. NEAR has restored or built 60 houses in the past three years in St. Clair Place neighborhood, just north of Holy Cross. We are currently working on 16 more houses for homeownership. There is every indication that renewal of the Near Eastside will be a developing urban story over the next decade. Please consider this as part of your strategic thinking about whether or not to dissolve the faith community that is in the heart of this.

The Near Eastside community is blessed by the diversity and uniqueness of both Holy Cross and St. Philip Neri Parishes. Those of us who serve in the community readily recognize their distinct separate contributions. Though less than two miles apart, in a dense matrix of urban neighborhoods, they stand like two pillars of faith in our community—anchors, as it were, of community life. The Near Eastside is enriched by each in very different ways. We hope they will both continue to serve and flourish in the years ahead.

As you are faced with difficult decisions for the sake of administrative efficiency, please consider again options other than closing Holy Cross Parish. Perhaps this period of consideration will spark enough soul-searching and surface enough expressed value in and for Holy Cross that it may become a catalyst for the congregation’s own renewal. I hope so.

Grace and peace,

John Franklin Hay, D. Min.
Executive Director

Near East Area Renewal

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA