It is a sparkling Monday, Midterm Election eve and Yours Truly is ready to go. The Candidate Forum asked Blogger to remind you that he will in on Wednesday with an post-election wrap up. Will we be singing the blues or seeing red? Stay tuned, it will be a wild ride to the end, and GO VOTE. Alright, on to today's subject de-gentrification
De-gentrification? What is that? We know what gentrification is but de-gentrification? How do you de-gentrify a community? Close the Whole Foods and artisanal microbrewery? Maybe but Yours Truly has something else in mind.
One of greatest affects of gentrification is displacement of low-income individual as housing costs skyrocketed into the stratosphere. In the New City Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Reverend Tyler Sit is tackling displacement using scripture and Peter Moskowtiz' book How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood (theatlantic.com; Mar. 9, 2017; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018). Mr. Moskowtiz' book was published in March of 2017 and profiles cities like New York and San Francisco, where low-income families and individuals have been replaced by primarily Caucasian middle- and upper-class people returning to urban areas. Minneapolis is also experiencing the creeping realities of gentrification in the Powderhorn neighborhood, home to New City Church, as well as Central and Phillips, also served by the Church.
Durning one Sunday service, Rev. Sit preached the gospel of degentrification,
I'm glad that some of you felt the call to come alive, felt a call to de-gentrify a neighborhood with gentrification being an intrinsic death-dealing blow...(citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017; date access Nov. 5, 2018)
The majority of adults in the pews that Sunday were millennials, no small accomplishment for a contemporary congregation.
Serena Solomon reported in her CityLab article "The Gospel of De-Gentrification," "The gospel of de-gentrification isn't just a strategy to snag the attention of a younger generation whom the wider church is struggling to captivate. It is a core purpose of New City Church" (Ibid). Besides growing the congregation, New City's central mission "is to slow,mistook,many even turn back the negative effects of demographic change in these urban Minneapolis communities" (Ibid).
To accomplish this purpose, "the church is pursuing revenue-generating backyard farms,bcommunity-owned housing, and better policies for longtime residents--while spreading a gospel that is relevant to millennials moving in and the neighborhood's old guard alike" (Ibid)
Originally Rev. Sit wanted to start an eco-church that focused on climate change. However the feedback he received convinced him that maybe an eco-church was not the best idea.
Instead, he started to really to pay attention to the stories people from the community. "The common refrain he heard was a predominantly Latino and African Americsn community that had improved their neighborhood--closed brothels, added bike lanes--leading to rising rents that rents that residents could no longer afford" (Ibid). Rev. Sit told CityLab,
What I heard, again and again, was "I guess I'm too poor to live in a safe and green neighborhood,.... As a person of faith, that is a narrative that I have to categorically reject. (Ibid)
New City Church focuses on the roots of displacement before they become problems. This is part of the mission of the United Methodist denomination--which New City is a member--to respond to the immediate needs of people like food, clothing, and shelter. Rev. Daniel C. Johnson, who supervises the 60 or so United Methodists congregations in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, told CityLab,
The hope is witnesses like New City Church can be a stabilization for our communities and a more multicultural environment so we don't just go back to the homogeneity of people who can afford to live there,.... (Ibid)
New City Church and the Reverand Tyler Sit are typical of Methodist churches: preach to the masses, also, it follow a more progressive path by embracing the LGBTQ community and climate change. However, its focus on de-gentrification sets it apart: "Faith leaders, including Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, the CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches [mnchurches.org; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018] couldn't name any other church with the same community outreach focus" (Ibid). Rev. DeYoung noted that "Many churches do see this kind of social justice as central to their work,.... But they should be more clued in" (Ibid). Rev DeYoung said,
In order for the church to be relevant to a younger generation,nsocisl justice issues like gentrification will need to be on the agenda,.... Jesus was about justice. So for the sake of integrity,mother church will also need to be about justice. (Ibid)
A 2016 study conducted by the University of Minneasota Law School's Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity (law.umn.edu; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018) revealed that the panic over gentrification was overblown. The study concluded that many of the areas in the city, described as gentrifying, presented signs of decline (scholarship.law.umn.edu; Jan. 2016; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018). However, data from a study released earlier this year partially contradicts those conclusions. The Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (cura.umn.edu; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018) found that Phillips and Central, two of the neighborhoods served by the Church, were among several areas where housing costs and median incomes are increasing concurrent with the percentage of residents that have college degree (Ibid).
Does the Bible preach against Soul Cycle and hipster hang outs? Not exactly. It does imagine a world without the side effects of urban renewal. The Good Book does preach a world where all nations dwell in peace and harmony--something we can all use right now. To Rev. Sit, this ideal world is he blueprint for an equitable community.
New City's ideal for Powderhorn, Phillips, and Central is a place where everyone lives together in harmony, low crime, and homes are valued. The Bible's emphasis on farming also works with New City's de-gentrification strategy. When Rev. Sit began forming his church, he and others began planting fruit trees in the yards of participating residents as a symbol of their commitment to the community. This past spring, the Church began a pilot program in micro-farming, modeled on the successful Green City Acres (greencityacres.com; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018). The program is led by church member Armel Martin, who is trained in permaculture and the design of sustainable agricultural ecosystems. The goal is to generate additional income streams to help area families and individual make ends meet. Urban farming is on the first step. There is talk about expanding into building affordable housing and branching out the Church.
The question of "How the church can facilitate a land trust--where it can steward affordable housing by owning both property and land--is an ongoing conversation" (citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017). Rev.mSit is optimistic,
Every early indication is that it would be really aligned with New City's vision.... we can have a say in the housing that is being allowed into our neighborhoods. (Ibid)
One issue that may prove quite a challenge is the role that Rev. Sit and his fellow inner-city missions might play in transforming the urban environment. Perhaps he might be best served by understanding the story of Bob Lupton (sites.silaspartners.com; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018), the founder of the non-profit Focused Community Strategies (fcministries.org; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018) which provides mixed-income housing and community development in Atlanta.
Rev. Curtiss DeYoung is also optimistic,
I am hopeful [New City Church] will come up with new answers to these challenges,but the power of the business community and developers is very strong....Gentrificatiin is rather a new concept for churches to talk about.
Rev. Tyler Sit will continue to preach the gospel of de-gentrification. One sermon kicked off s six part series, titled "Habits of De-gentrifier (based on Peter Moskowtiz' book), intended to outline how displacement happens. His mission "recognizes the cultural currency of a neighborhood, debunking the notion that Minneapolis neighborhoods were desolate before middle-class whites discovered them." (citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017)
It is his calling, are moved by the spirit? Let the spirit guide you to your polling place tomorrow, NOVEMBER 6 and VOTE.