This Old City: A Christian's Dream of Renovating Richmond
I sought out a contractor friend of mine for his perspective on my idea. Steve grew up wild in Wyoming, moved to Richmond to earn his fine arts degree in painting, met Jesus Christ, and has developed a thriving contracting business over the years. I assumed that he would rather quickly push up expensive new houses on tracts cleared from farmland instead of dealing with all of the problems involved with old houses.
Not even close. "When I renovate old homes, I see myself as part of a legacy," said Steve. "I am a temporary steward of a thing that has lasting, irreplaceable qualities. Lovers of old homes tend to enjoy the discovery of long-grown children's height marks on doorjambs or postcards from 1909 found behind fireplace mantels. I strive to add to and reinforce an idea whose foundation predates me and has a future beyond me." Steve admitted that it is easier and more profitable to build McMansions from scratch, but he is animated by the belief that great renovations will prove both more beautiful and more functional.
Richmond is indeed complex, but then so are all cities—whether they acknowledge it or not. Every city's history includes dark chapters of oppression, greed, and injustice. God wants his followers to contribute to our cities' flourishing, which requires that we acknowledge how we've been complicit in evil, and also pitch in to uproot evil's effects and replace them with beauty and goodness. In the Book of Jeremiah, the exiled, minority Jewish community was commanded to redress Babylon's oppression and persecution by praying and serving. In their varying stories, Joseph, Boaz, Nehemiah, and Daniel enhanced their communities by serving the common good.