Going the extra mile
On June 24, folks from St. Paul’s hit the pavement to intentionally engage the community by walking its streets.
For 12 weeks over the summer, 37 walkers covered more than 147 miles of sidewalks, trails, roads, and alleys, paying close attention to what they saw, heard, and experienced. They were looking specifically for ways at which God is already at work in the world around us.
Sometimes new sidewalks the city provided easy walking, but other times the sidewalks ended or were in disrepair. Many of the neighborhoods contained a variety of single-family and multi-family homes – some needing a little TLC, but many in good condition and under great care.
Near the center of the city, small businesses (a few just opening) were contained in houses amidst residential homes. Of particular interest was the old church building on John & Gentry which has since been converted into a residence.
Walkers didn’t notice or interact much with others for the first few weeks when temperatures reached over 100 degrees. As the heat began to break, children emerged to play on the sidewalks and ride their bikes down side streets followed by people relaxing on their porches and working in their yards.
For those who didn’t feel physically up for a walk (especially given the high heat!), St. Paul’s partnered with the Paul Phillippe Center to provide a way for them to participate. The ride-along gave participants a way to see a lot of the city and surrounding areas, guided by a very knowledgeable driver.
During the campaign, participants came up with a few more creative ways to engage the community. As a way to celebrate the conclusion of the campaign, walkers invited local food industries to join a celebratory meal on Sunday, September 23rd. The lunch featured locally produced & distributed foods from Schoup’s Country Foods, Frito-Lay, Glover’s Ice Cream, Zachary’s Candy, and Margarita’s Pupusería.
Walkers also wanted to find a way to complement our listening with a way to serve the poor. So, on August 5th, St. Paul’s began collecting shoes for the shoe-less. Two large boxes were placed in the narthex outside of the sanctuary and people were asked to search their closet for unused shoes or bring in a pair of new shoes. Slowly, the boxes began to fill up – and then overflow! In total, over 180 pairs of shoes were blessed and sent on their way to be distributed by Art for Humanity!
Overall, the walkers’ response to the walk was one of surprising hope. We discovered a number of “leads” and “interesting guesses” about where this experience will take St. Paul’s into the future. The observations made during the walks will help give shape our future engagements, like the one-to-one listening campaign in 2013. Without question, St. Paul’s is beginning to see itself as part of the community here in Clinton county; but what we’ve witnessed walking the streets, collecting shoes, and inviting neighbors to share a meal, has helped us see ourselves as part of something even larger – God’s mission in the world, active and alive in our small corner of the world.