5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29)
Maybe to you this picture doesn't look like much. Maybe you would argue it really isn't city renewal. But I think you'd be wrong. In fact I'd say this is a beautiful picture of our city's renewal in process.
Six years ago New City Church was rushing to get tables and chairs and sound equipment into our first space downtown - 567 Cherry Street, a small storefront several doors down from our current location. We were trying to be ready for Macon's Cherry Blossom Festival - just to have music playing and offer free coffee during the festival. We dreamed of our "church" space being a community center that served downtown Macon and worked for its good. We dreamed of a space that would be used 7 days a week for the benefit of art and music. We dreamed of having a tangible impact on our city's renewal.
The picture... back to the picture... While it may not look like much, here's what I see:
- 9 couples gathered in our art gallery to paint together - creating art. 6 years ago you would never see this - there was very little art programming downtown and no space set up up to do this. I remember the weekend nights that you would be hard pressed to find 18 people in all of downtown before the bar crowd rolled in!
- 17 students - that's the number of Bibb County public school students who are currently displaying their artwork in The 567's gallery. Our art opening has become an annual event for some of the school system's brightest young artists.
- 13 schools - that's the number of schools participating in this year's art show.
- 3 new buildings. You can't really see them outside the windows in the picture but they are there - 3 buildings still being renovated right across the street - an art gallery, a restaurant, and loft apartments I believe.
- 2 conversations that you definitely don't see. The picture reminded me of 2 recent conversations with different individuals a week or so apart. They aren't a part of New City - have never attended a service and don't attend any church. Both said that New City and The 567 have had a huge impact on the changes we see downtown. Both said that they aren't sure how much of this would have happened as it has without us. Both said that they would be terribly sad if we weren't here.
Maybe I see so much in the picture because of the conversation I just had. The 567 has a brand new co-worker. That's another thing we do here - offer space and some help starting a new business - the hope is that the business will take off and when it does, downtown will have another healthy, thriving, permanent business moving into one of these old spaces. Its his first day with us - so I got to tell our New City story and share with him our dream of seeing a city transformed... for the glory of God and the good of His people.