Healing can take place on several levels. There is physical healing, as when one has a broken bone or a kidney infection. There is emotional healing, as when one has been hurt by the actions of their lover. And there is community healing, something Birmingham has been struggling with since the 1960's. But more recently, since the April 27 storms, communities are broken in a different way and are in need of a different kind of healing.
On Sunday our pastor delivered a sermon titled "Building a Healing Community." (Her May sermon series was developed before the storms.) She based her sermon on the story of Jesus healing the paralytic (Mark 2: 1-12) and she spoke of the different types of healing mentioned above, including community healing.
Also on Sunday the Birmingham News published "A Special Report" titled Reinventing Our Community, stating "...metro Birmingham just might be ready to move beyond a decade of division, disparity and corruption." Almost every section of the paper had articles outlining the broken history of our city, the huge opportunity that has been laid out in front of us, and ideas for moving forward, with urgency, toward meaningful change. Everyone in Jefferson County should read Sunday's paper. Click here for the entire Special Report. There is a lot to read, plan to spend some time there.
The storms of April 27 may have been the spark that ignites a movement. Relief and recovery efforts have ignored real or perceived boundaries without regard to race or religion or sexual orientation or football affiliation, and there is a common call for the rebuilt communities to be better than the ones that are no more.
The Bessemer Cutoff OFA Team (Bessemer's 2012 Obama team), sent volunteers on Saturday to work at the Pratt City Resource Center. (Bessemer Cutoff OFA on Facebook)
The Resource Center is staffed by dozens of officials from various agencies and scores of volunteers. Residents who have been affected by the storm can pick up supplies such as tarps or cleaning supplies as well as household items, water and food. Services offered by FEMA and the Red Cross could be accessed, and internet access and some health services were offered for residents who needed it.
In addition, donations of water and food and other items were constantly being dropped off.
In other words, hundred of people created a steady stream of cars coming into the facility, which had to be directed to the proper areas in order to avoid confusion. And with hundreds of residents coming in, and volunteers that were working for hours, food needed to be provided. Arby's was there feeding folk, as was Jim & Nicks Barbecue. Several church groups were there cooking; Christ Way Church of God members grilled hamburgers for volunteers and residents, who shared tables set up near the grills.
You can volunteer for the Pratt City Resource Center through Hands on Birmingham.
Among the religious groups helping were people from Mennonite Disaster Services.
They were in Pratt City after storms in 1998, and are back again. "This will be a long-term project," Disaster Response Coordinator Jerry Klassen said.
ICNA Relief had volunteers there also.
Islamic Circle of North America is a Muslim organization that recognizes their call to help and support the needy as a religious responsibility. The man I spoke with was also an Auburn fan and an Obama supporter, but his work there had nothing to do with either of those choices. They were there to help, just like the rest of us.
Presbyterians were there. Catholic groups were there. There were Baptist and evangelical groups there. All were there to help a community get back on their feet again.
Reinventing Birmingham is sort of like reinventing the Black Belt region of Alabama. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk...people easily tire of hearing about their problems and not seeing any action to make improvements. Things are slowly, and finally, changing in the Black Belt, thanks in part to Bob Riley's Black Belt Action Team and Congresswoman Terri Sewell. But change there is not happening there overnight, nor will it in Birmingham.
In fact, if won't happen at all if people don't leave behind the thing that divides us the most - religion.
I don't mean people need to give up their faith, far from it. Just don't let your faith get in the way of doing what is right for our community. Of course, your faith may dictate that you help your community by providing educational services or assisting in health care education or restoring neighborhoods.
But if your faith says you are better than someone else, or that you are closer to God than someone else, or that you have better access to God than somebody else, and you come in with that kind of attitude, then you are part of the problem that has been holding Birmingham back for decades.
We just ask that you get out of the way while we carry our city into the future.