Sunday, May 02, 2004

Goin' Where The Weather Suits My Clothes

I promised after a silly entry on my root canal road trip with dad that there was more I would write about later, I want to revisit my trip with dad.

Greg inadvertently touched on what I wanted to say when he noticed that Southeast OKC is to be the site of one of three Blockdonalds (conjoined Blockbuster Video/McDonalds) in the nation. What I didn’t share in my earlier entry is that the new Blockdonald’s is on the site of a former church.

Ok, so Dad and I are driving by and as I start to laugh at the conjoined business principal, Dad weighs in on the most shocking thing to him. “They leveled that church to put this up.” Now, I am not the kind of na├»ve that believes that the evil corporate Blockdonald’s empire ripped the church right out from under this congregation. I know how it goes. I have seen it before. I even sort of lived it.

~~~~Hazy Music Plays as We Swoosh Back To The Author’s Childhood~~~~

When I look back at the things that shaped me as a kid, one of the biggest factors is the church we attended. I grew up in a church in downtown Capitol Hill in South OKC. The area was once the center of commerce and activity for this part of town (both my father and my great grandmother held retail jobs when this area was the hub of the action), but as white flight took hold of OKC, declined. Doesn’t need much explanation, you know the story. You can blame it on any number of things, but it happened.

My family continued at this church despite the decline and I think I owe much of who I am to that fact. I grew up alongside kids of varied economic backgrounds. Residents of the Baptist Women’s Shelter came to our church and brought their kids. I taught those kids in choir and in Bible School. I sat in the choir loft on a Sunday night as an abusive husband walked in the back of the church to “visit with” his wife (he was stopped by an usher who um…shared with him and the man left…I still don’t know how willingly). I was forced into an acute awareness of just how fortunate I was to be born into the family I was. I am awash in nostalgia as I think of a thousand stories. I won’t bore you. Just know it was important.

In the 1980’s, the church membership had shrunk. Many families had left the church in search of “someplace for our kids”. A committee was formed and plans were made. The church moved its location to far Southwest OKC. It was a rapidly growing area and a move there promised an increase in the much coveted “young family” demographic. For a time, we kept the old building and functioned as “one church in two locations” but after about 5 years of that, the church moved into its present location. The Hispanic congregation we supported folded and the building was sold and a Hispanic congregation bought the facility where they run a church there today.

It seems this is a trend. Churches all over the city are leaving their “inner city” locations and moving to the suburbs where members can be among people like themselves and the churches can grow. Dad and I had a long discussion over whether or not we can blame these people. I hesitated to blog this right away because I have no answers. I swing back and forth. I know it is human nature to seek out people like us and in a church, but I wonder where the kids who live in Downtown Capitol Hill get to grow up. Sometimes these suburb bound churches sell their buildings to congregations who are able to grow there but sometimes they level the area for a Blockdonald’s while churches stand shoulder to shoulder north of NW Expressway and south of I-240.

Again, no answers. In my searching for a church, I have found myself looking more for people like myself than opportunities to minister. Sure, I want to minister, but I want to find some like minded buddies to share the experience. Don’t we all?

The picture I saw this week with my dad was too vivid not to share.

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