Dear Folks,

This Sunday at 11:30, we hope to have a full parish conversation about whether Redeemer might be the 50th dues-paying member of BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development).  BUILD is a broad-based, interfaith, multi-racial organization whose work is to assist people to discover their social, spiritual, and political power.  BUILD’s methodology is to listen to individuals in Baltimore, to hear their problems and hurts, and then to help individual problems be refined to issues that an organized community can act on.

BUILD has been in Baltimore for almost 40 years, and its significant work includes, by decade:

1980’s Working with elected officials BUILD created the College Bound Foundation by leveraging $15 million from the corporate community for college preparatory activities and scholarships. The CollegeBound Foundation has assisted thousands of city public school students and provided millions in scholarship dollars.

Beginning in the 1980’s with its partner Enterprise Homes, BUILD is the largest non-profit developer of lower-income owner-occupied housing in the city. BUILD and Enterprise have helped to develop more than 767 Nehemiah homes, enabling families to create equity, while making their neighborhoods more safe.

1990’s  Since its inception, Child First has grown from seven to 13 schools, providing academic, cultural and recreational enrichment to more than a thousand students each year.

2000’s State Funding for Education: BUILD organized with MD IAF and the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC) to restore $18 million in state funding for Baltimore schools and $94 million state-wide.

Today Turnaround Tuesdays job training, particularly with returning felons, in partnership with employers such as Johns Hopkins University, Medstar Health, Blueprint Robotics, and TRF Development.

Through BUILD we have a vehicle for being in relationship with people in our city that we might otherwise not know or work with.  Their listening methodology intends to create peers, who may bring very different gifts and experiences to a given issue or moment, but who work together closely enough to form relationships.  These relationships are transformative, as someone else’s struggles become common ground for us, issues we all care about on which to meet and work together.  And relationships are the way of the gospel.  Jesus invites us into such intimacy with each other.

“Who is my neighbor?” asks the lawyer, and Jesus tells him the story of the Good Samaritan, asking his listener to identify with the person who helps the man in the ditch.  Jesus suggests that being involved in each other’s life in this way changes everyone in the transaction.

Concretely, BUILD will train us to listen deeply, focusing problems into issues.  We will be trained to sit at a table with unlikely neighbors and discern what gifts we might bring to bear.  We will ally ourselves with 50 other communities of faith, schools, and civic organizations, most of which are made up primarily of African Americans.  We may be advocating on behalf of poor people or folks who are under-served, working with brothers and sisters to transform our city.  Along with this work, Redeemer will continue to feed people, clothing the children at Govans, tutoring there, building Habitat homes, providing Boots for Baltimore, making lunch and serving it at Paul’s Place.  But BUILD enables us to make change, to get at the root causes of poverty, even as we serve those in need now.

To be clear, if we become full partners with BUILD, we will sometimes be engaged in scrappy work.  The Baltimore that BUILD invites us into relationship with has experienced a fair amount of trauma, which in some cases is on-going, and it will be challenging to let ourselves be touched by such pain, to respond to it by knowing and loving the people  who are in the midst of it, and to help them transform it.  It might be noisy work sometimes.  Like the widow who kept knocking on the judge’s door, we might feel like a nuisance.  But I can promise you that we will always be proud of the actions we take.  And working in partnership with Baltimoreans in this way may just help us discover more fully who we are.

Join us Sunday at 11:30, to learn more, to listen to each other, and see what the future might hold for us.

Love, David