This Old City: A Christian's Dream of Renovating Richmond
It's my privilege to be a small part of "the church at Richmond," a group of shalom-seekers who are black and white, conservative and liberal, rich and poor, newcomers and old-timers. Lovingly herded by our own Jeremiahs, we are steadily pressing into repentance, reconciliation, and renewal. We are hearing a call, not just to proclamation and service, but also to redeeming our city's bad history. As my contractor friend said, "From the renovator's standpoint, it is not only working with the inspired aspects of the old house that makes it worthwhile, but also the opportunity to contend with the less-inspired features." We know that we are—albeit redeemed—fallen souls in a fallen world, and that we even continue to commit new sins and affronts. But during its season, the living church at Richmond is lovingly tending the city's gardens, communities, workplaces, and statehouses. Like renovators of a house, these brothers and sisters seek to improve the city for the benefit of its future inhabitants.
Towards that end, a boisterous, diverse crowd of 1,500 believers from dozens of churches came to gather in a gym for a "Bless Richmond" Sunday night prayer service last fall. The highlight of the evening was off-script: during his turn to pray on stage, Shawn, a young, white pastor, took off his suit coat and used it to wash the feet of a grey-headed African American leader. Emmett (who was featured in the City project's recent film on Christian activism) wept openly as Shawn prayed, thanking God for the lifelong Richmonder's faithful service, praying that his footsteps would be beautiful and blessed for future service.
Instead of seeing doom around each corner, the church at Richmond is learning to recognize parlors of grace and foyers of forgiveness. Together, we all insert shims here and patches there, painstakingly repairing artful details and making level the foundations, in pursuit of reconciliation and renovation. And already, I'm experiencing the joy of watching my own children as they discover this new Richmond—an old city brimming with new life, rich from generations of grace, care, and prayer.
Fritz Kling is a foundation executive, consultant, and author of The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church (Cook).