Get a glimpse into the life and and work of a Community Organizer and church worker in the heart of the Jersey side of the NY metro-area.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hitting That Stride: Life Gets Busy

I've been working a lot lately.

As some of you know, a few weeks ago I was a sad little man who had no idea what to do, where things were going and what the heck I was supposed to do with my ministry site. So, the sentence "I've been working a lot lately" is seems like a total 180°. It is. Things have mounted, and fast. My Google Calendar is now chock full with few breaks straight into January.

One of the reasons is that I have decided to expand my already vague occupational title of "community organizer" to include setting up an alumni network for my alma mater in the NYC metro-area. This has taken over a small portion of my life, but I feel it fits into the schema of my life's story. Chalk it up to practice for my day job. Can't wait for Monon, it will be and always has been exciting.

Back to that day job.

Last Thursday morning as I was shamelessly handing out coffee in front of St. John's at our bus stop. Three cups of coffee later and with the mega buzz that inevitably follows, my supervisor Geoff Curtiss, priest at All Saints Hoboken, and I began percolating ourselves. How do we serve the community from where we are now? We've been taking a look at that through the lense of the immediate neighborhood since I got back to Jersey five weeks ago (has it been longer? I've lost all track). When you walk around here you notice some things: kids everywhere, a HUGE construction site(future school), playgrounds dotted here and there, and schools. It doesn't take a look at the city's master plan to figure out what is envisioned for this space: youth district. There are in fact six schools within a 15 minute(most much closer than that) walk of St. John's. We don't need to come up with new ideas, they are all sitting right in front of us, our ministry focus is right in front of us: kids. Some of what I'll be doing this week will be designing and formatting a youth service for Sunday afternoons at St. John's. The first group that this will be "advertised" to is the after school program Puerta Abierta ran out of St. John's parish hall.

Wednesday mornings are now occupied by morning prayer and then shameless-coffee-moments in front of All Saints in Hoboken. It is a rather cold session, personally rigid, as most people (yuppies of the millennial generation for the win!) want zero human interaction in-transit to work. Too bad, I offer coffee and an overly cheery disposition with a toothy smile for free in the name of Jesus. The feel is altogether different from the time spent doing the same thing in Union City. There people grab up the coffee and make small talk before they hurriedly hurdle to the bus, coffee spilling and cookies a-crumble whilst garbling "Thanks for the coffee bye bye!" Much more laid-back. Much like the Wednesday morning, the Thursday coffee-giving will begin following a morning prayer service for those who need a spiritual gassing up before they roll into the Port Authority.

Combine all of this with the NEWARK ACTS scheduling, house activities, and an ever present sense of impending doom that thus makes the "do everything you can now or it will never happen" mindset explode in my skull, you can see how life is about to pass before my eyes in a blaze of mounting meetings and a scheduling conflict bonanza. And thank god. I'm grateful to feel useful and forward moving, it makes life beautifully un-graspable and helps me enjoy the duller moments.

As always more will follow. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 26, 2011

So, I should have started this a year ago...

But I didn't, life is hectic and crazy in mostly the best ways, usually. Let me catch you up...

Since getting to New Jersey after a year in South Africa, a short bout at home in the Fern Gully of my home in Wisconsin, I've found a new home in several ways. I've made a number of friends, found a new parish to be a member of, worked in a homeless shelter through a new program, taught creative writing and art classes, went on dates, got rejected, tried new food, loved all of it (no surprise there), gotten mugged (best ways, usually), fell in love with the midtown skyline, learned to hate to drive, shrank my world's size (started seeing Brooklyn as the other side of the known universe), use broken Spanish (daily), moved from Jersey City (Heights Heights baby!) to Union City, one-and-a-half-miles up on Palisade Ave. and on the same side of the street, amazingly, where I write/type from this morning.

That was the fast version, we'll let that stick.

Anyway, now I find myself work for NEWARK ACTS again, this time under the banner of my parish home, All Saints Hoboken, at a brand new ministry site, St. John's Union City, which is 20' from my front door. It is a remnant church (the few parishioners who attend are no longer from the immediate neighborhood), but All Saints, the Diocese of Newark, and NEWARK ACTS see this as the tip-of-the-spear for renewed urban ministry.

Mi espaƱol es muy malo, though, so this is going to be fun. Union City is Hispanic and Latino, with few exceptions. The church already has one great community program: Puerta Abierta, an after-school program for 40 local school children that runs from 3-6PM. Aside from this, the congregation is essentially unknown to those closest to it physically. Part of my job is to change that.

As I stated previously, my Spanish is bad, and while most people speak at least some English, I would prefer to meet everyone halfway. It's kind of funny, having gone from a "missionary" in South Africa to being a "missioner" up the street and around the corner here in Jersey. isiXhosa doesn't get you far 'round these parts. Still, I welcome yet another challenge, and this will be the best test yet of whether I have the mettle or not to continue in my pursuit of ministry of one-sort-or-another.

The first big project that I have to work on is a conference scheduled at St. John's this November. The first things I hope to have done by then is a complete physical revamp of the building, a better relationship with all of the neighbors, as well as learning more Spanish.

Stay tuned, more to come, and as always, it'll be exciting ;)