June 28, 2011
I think all of this is a bit of a stretch. Â OK, it is a huge stretch. Â It sounds to me like you're a fan of parks and trying to use Holy Scripture to justify your opinions.
That's funny, because I feel like I didn't go far enough. Which part do you think is a stretch?
Parks a great, stewardship is commanded and investing money in parks is not always good stewardship. Â There are more important functions for city governments to invest capital in when money is tight.<br><br>As for the ministry aspect of things, while parks are nice, we don't have to have them for ministry to be effective.
I'm not sure I like my first answer to your question. Â So let me put this "out there."<br><br>I think there is a huge difference between saying "we (the Church) want to and will take advantage of public spaces to do the Kingdom work" and saying "the Bible calls us to spend public funds on parks for Kingdom work." Â <br><br>I simply disagree with that second notion and I think it is a stretch to imply that this is what Holy Scripture is saying.
Could you imagine New York City without Central Park? The city would not be as livable without that place of refuge.Developers would love to get their hands on that property.<br>Parks supply green space for trees to grow,which in turn give shade and clean the air. Parks have nothing to do with cutting costs or the bottom line of a financial statement.<br>They deal with our quality of life,environment and welfare of wildlife.<br>Churches often use parks for summer picnics and outdoor services.<br><br>The original native inhabitants of North America when making decisions would think in terms of what would happen in 6 generations.<br>We need to think more in those terms and no the live for today attitude.<br>Do we choose to have a world filled with sub-divisions or a green healthy planet.
Thanks for clarifying and expanding your thoughts. I don't see a strong separation between "we, the members of the Church" and "we, the members of our local community," especially in the American context in which officials are elected from within the community and initiatives like public parks are, in part, products of community decision-making.Â <br><br>If you don't like the idea of using public funds for Kingdom work, what about using public funds in direct opposition to Kingdom principles? Local government, under the current American system, is tasked with the duty of overseeing and regulating the use of land, including public land. (In Kentucky, the oversight of public land is named explicitly in our state constitution as a basic duty of local government.) I hope that Christians in government will seek Biblical wisdom to guide their decision-making.
City budgets often aren't as simple as a pot of money, where if you take some from one part of the pot, another gets less.Â That is to say, it's not as if you can necessarily divert money from new park construction to the police force, for example, if the money for new parks comes from a clean air federal grant.Â Often that money can only be used for a park!<br><br>Living in a city and attending an urban church, I can tell you that the new park around the corner from us has proved vital.Â Our church, like many I know around Chicago, doesn't meet in a church building.Â We rely on public space for any outdoor activities we plan and it's in working with the alderman and the park district and local groups to secure time and space in a park that we find an important aspect of our ministry.Â <br><br>As an urban planner, I have a huge appreciation for public space.Â Living on the border of Humboldt Park in Chicago, I often feel as though I have one of the biggest, best backyards possible, and I get to share it with all sorts of people.Â I rarely feel like I'm missing out because I don't have a private backyard.Â I think the church that views their local public parks in the same way is a church that is prepared for work in an urban setting.Â <br><br>-JK<br><br>(moderator, disregard earlier comment, I hit "post as..." too soon.
Personally, I wish more Churches had nicely manicured public spaces, like many Catholic communities have.Â That would be a great way for the local church to serve the community without having to go the governmental route.Â That said, I believe that Michael is correct in his assessment that this is very contextual.Â I also think one should be free to bring Biblical assumptions into the evaluative frame work.Â If money is the only consideration, where are you basing that assumption?Â I think the Bible has much to say about debt and things of that sort, but so too does it have a lot to say about other issues.Â Why did, for instance, farm animals receive a Sabbath?Â Why were fields commanded to go fallow?Â Yes you can try to side swipe into a pragmatic scientifically that is good for long term sustainability, but I don't think that's the total point.Â The point is, we are to have dominion over creation, that is a creation mandate, and we are also, though fallen, bearers of God's image.Â Does God treat us solely in terms of financial incomes and outlays?Â Do you really want to live and have your neighbors live in a hole.Â It may be easy if you are in a nice area with nice houses and big yards, but it is not so in many urban areas.Â I do think it is contextual though.Â I live in an urban area.Â Studies have shown that people who live in urban areas have a much higher propensity to develop depression and stress related illnesses.Â Where I live, we have plenty of parks and nature preserves.Â The problem is they have become hangouts for public drug use and public sex.Â In my context, I don't think money should go to expand these but rather to law enforcement.Â Families do not go to many of these places, because of the crime element present.Â Perhaps people in non-urban areas have less of a need for parks and it is appropriate to cut budgets.Â Maybe also, we need to differentiate between areas intended for conservation of wildlife and areas that exist for people to use.Â The other thing we need to ask is what is the role of private parks.Â Where I live, there used to be a grove which was the largest picnic grove in all of cook county between 1890-1913, before closing.Â It was a private for profit park.Â Many people took the train from Chicago, rich and poor alike, to use this place.Â Maybe we do need to revisit the idea of promoting areas that charge a minimal usage fee to supply this need, be it privately or publicly held.Â I know in my context, the idea of a fee may prevent the criminal element from using such places for say having outdoor sex.Â The point is, as Michael alludes, we are to seek the good of the city--at least depending on your lapsarian position.
In an economic downturn, the demand for parks and recreation programs increases greatly. The folks whose summer vacation options do not include travel depend greatly on the places and programs provided by local parks. These are often the "least of these", and one way we can demonstrate the love of Jesus is to support these services.
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