Flower Power

Bethany Dudley – Requip

By Rita Feikema

Although the day was cold and rainy, turnout was great for a day of neighborhood beautification on the north side of Chicago. I work with many different demographics in the Rogers Park neighborhood, and I’d spent several months learning about the felt needs of our neighbors, as well as the strengths that already exist in our community. One idea that came through loud and clear was the desire to beautify our streets. Neighbors wanted a way to feel ownership and responsibility in our community.

So one Saturday, we got together a group of volunteers to plant flowers along the sidewalks of two major streets.  These were not just any flowers. They were seedlings that had been growing in the greenhouse at Gale Academy, a local public school, for months.

They had been tended by student volunteers from Rogers Park, who attended Loyola or Northwestern.   And, these were not just any volunteers. Members of the Rogers Park Garden Group shared their expertise on how to transplant these seedlings into the ground. College students who were interning in they city provided muscle and energy as they learned about one of the vibrant neighborhoods in Chicago. A group of moms who were looking for opportunities to volunteer in the community brought their kids. And members of Many Peoples Church came with coffee and cookies to warm us up.

It’s incredible how a little thing like planting flowers can suddenly make a neighborhood seem friendlier. Everyone walking by wanted to know what we were doing, or complimented us on making the street more welcoming. Conversation – between passersby and volunteers, between college students and kids, between expert gardeners and novices – that never would have otherwise taken place flowed unforced.  And of course, now Rogers Park enjoys more pleasant, beautiful streetscapes.

Neighbors Uniting

There are 77 neighborhoods in the city of Chicago.  Each of these neighborhoods are unique in culture, food and resources. When a Chicagoan meets a fellow Chicagoan one of the first questions that is asked is “where do you live?”  This might sound strange to an outsider; after all they just said they live in Chicago.  But to a true Chicagoan this is an important question, for the neighborhood you live in tells a lot about you.  It helps identify you.  Each of the 77 neighborhoods has an individual identity and reputation.  It is crucial that any church planter, community developer or intentional community member understand this and get to know and understand the neighborhood they are in

For the past eight month I have been meeting with three fellow pastors who have the vision to plant an intentional transformational community in each of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.   Our mission is to develop transformational urban leaders who embrace and advance how God is holistically at work in local neighborhoods.  Our vision is “To see God’s Kingdom come and God’s will be done in neighborhoods everywhere as it is in heaven.”

We met with a group of individuals who are either already living intentionally in a neighborhood or interested in moving into a new neighbor with the purpose of neighborhood transformation.  There was an air of excitement as these men and woman gathered together to share vision, mission and passion.  Some were contemplating the importance of being an intentional neighbor for the first time, while others were excited to discuss what they have been doing for years.

This September we plan on beginning the first cohort of Neighbors Uniting who will come together to share, learn, greave, celebrate and discuss the messiness that is living intentional as a great neighbor.


Renewed Excitement for Transformation

The Westside Ministers Coalition (WMC) has been a strong presence on the Westside of Chicago for over thirty years.  The mission of WMC is to be “an organization whose purpose is to work in cooperation with other organizations sharing similar values in accomplishing our goal which is to explore and initiate self-help efforts to improve the Westside communities of Chicago in the areas of housing, health, energy, education, economics and community development.”  Rev. Lewis Flowers has been leading the WMC since the beginning and is highly respected among his community, political leaders and other clergy on the Westside.

Rev. Flowers and his staff have been working diligently for the betterment of the Westside of Chicago however are facing the same challenges so many NOPs are facing when it comes to lack of development and transformation. It is discouraging feeling that a community is stuck in a cyclical pattern of poverty.  I met Rev. Flowers while speaking on Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) at School of the Prophets, a local clergy gathering. Through this introduction to ABCD and then a follow-up in-depth training the WMC has developed a renewed excitement and optimism for transformation on the Westside of Chicago.

The Westside Ministers Coalition and Rev. Flowers are now strong advocates of Asset Based Community Development and have begun hosting trainings for their partners in order that true transformation and development will continue on the Westside of Chicago.  While WMC is at the beginning stages of this process the renewed energy in the organization and its’ constituency is evident.  It will be exciting to see how God uses WMC to continue His work in Chicago.  I look forward to sharing the many stories of transformation I know will come from WMC as they continue to apply the ABCD process in their communities.

Bethany Dudley


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