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A Place Called Charlottesville

A Place Called Charlottesville

We are moving. If all goes as planned, this summer we will pack our family and our furniture and the several hundred stuffed animals our boys have accrued into a yellow Penske truck and trek to Charlottesville, Virginia where we will be helping to lead the formation of a new church community.

This particular place has called our name. There is something about the city, the people, the intellectual curiosity, the vitality and life, the stories and the scars of this marvelous little town that have tugged our heart. For several years now, my thinking has been changing about the importance of place. There was a time, probably, when I gave little thought to the unique textures of a city’s narrative, to its ethos, to its pains and wounds. I mean, obviously I noticed such things at least enough to judge whether or not I liked a local, whether it had the vibe I was looking for. But to truly see the city (to want to see it even), to hear it’s stories, to learn from those who have long known it as home, to want to give something to a place (rather than just use a place) – well that has been some time coming.

Now, I am compelled by the reality that Jesus came to a particular people in a particular place (he came for the world, but his first work was often embarrassingly limited to his people). Jesus gave himself to them. He lived with them, among them. Jesus was them.

Jesus followed a grand tradition. The prophets of the Old Testament spoke to a specific people, to their people. Jeremiah wept for Israel. Amos railed against Israel. Samuel held Israel’s hand through many dark waters.

For the past six years, we have lived in a very particular spot, Clemson, South Carolina. It’s a beautiful place. Some of our best years have been here, and many of our dear friends have lived here in community with us. Now, however, another place is to be our home. And I am eager to enter this city filled with curiosity and eagerness, with wide-open eyes.

I hope to live the rest of my days this way, to truly live in a particular place with particular people. To take in the smells, the accents, the pains and joys. To know the social issues that plague my city, my people, to learn the seasons and rhythms that are unique to my home. This will take time. And listening. And serving. And loving.

If we wish to understand [a place] it must not be as tourists or inquirers, it must be with the loyalty of children and the great patience of poets. {G.K. Chesterton}

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