Why Should I Care about Detroit?
Tomorrow night, September 27, Detroit Free Press reporter John Gallagher will speak in dialogue with CCC Junior Warden Emery King about his book, Reimagining Detroit. Gallagher is a veteran journalist who has reported on Detroit area urban and economic redevelopment since 1987. The event takes place at 7:00 p.m. in the Hospitality Center, lower level.
Building on the work of the Outreach Committee, Beth Taylor organized this evening as a way for Christ Church Cranbrook to explore the possibilities of our becoming part of the metropolitan area's efforts to renew and revitalize the major city in our area. Many people have expressed enthusiasm for this work: on Wednesday, September 14, over thirty people came to the rectory to talk about our hopes for a ministry partnership with Focus: HOPE in the Oakman Boulevard neighborhood of Detroit.
Some, however, have asked me why Christ Church Cranbrook should get involved in Detroit, especially as Pontiac is so much closer and we already have relationships with All Saints Church and the tutoring program hosted there, Bound Together.
While maintaining our collaboration with All Saints and Bound Together is highly important to me, to Beth, and to the Outreach Committee, I strongly believe that Christ Church Cranbrook must be visibly present in Detroit for three reasons.
The first reason concerns our history. From its beginnings, Christ Church has had strong ties with Detroit and what came to be called the "urban crisis" in the 1950s and 1960s. CCC rectors Marquis, DeWitt, and O'Grady were, along with lay parish leaders, instrumental in establishing many of the church social service agencies that continue to serve the city. Christ Church Cranbrook is historically connected to Detroit, and those relationships have continued to strengthen both the city and the suburb.
The second reason involves our leadership role in the ecology of the churches in the area. We are the largest Episcopal parish not only in the Diocese of Michigan but also in the state. As such, we have a leadership role in the metropolitan area. It is symbolically important that the state's largest parish commit itself to the health of the state's largest city. We are not fully faithful to our vocation as a leading congregation if we do not demonstrate a commitment to the well-being of Detroit.
The third reason arises out of an understanding of how regions work. The suburbs exist, really, because of the city itself. Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Troy-in fact, all of south Oakland County-are economically and historically connected to Detroit. The best way to ensure the continued health and vitality of our suburban area is to work for the revitalization of the major population center in the tri-county area. While our local community serves in many respects as a center of business, education, and recreation, we cannot expect our own area to thrive if Detroit does not. The solutions to our metropolitan area's problems will be regional solutions. The more we develop and maintain relationships across city and county lines, the more effective we will be in raising the health and prosperity of the entire metropolitan area.
Why should I (or my church) care about Detroit? I believe we should care about it for all the obvious humanitarian reasons. But beyond that, we should care about Detroit because with all its challenges it is still a vital, creative city with an important history and many dynamic institutions. It is, in places, a beautiful city. And its life is now characterized by an increasingly impressive energy and imagination. The Detroit of 2020 will not look like the city of 1920. It may not look like any city we've ever seen before in America. But it is a city loaded with possibility and hope, and those are the two chief characteristics of the life Jesus calls us to lead.
Please come to the Hospitality Center tomorrow night at 7:00 to be part of this enterprise of imagination and revival.