• Fall, Y'all
    by The Center Baltimore on November 4, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    It’s here! It’s finally here!FallIt’s fall y’all!The air is crispThe late summer crops ready for harvestDays of rain plump patches of tended soil.We pick and pluck until we break a sweatAnd marvel at the shapes and colors The variety of yielded ---Over time and with care.It is another moment at the Glenwood Life Recovery Garden. A quick stop to check-in turned into a few hours of catching up and tending to the garden. The tomatoes were covering the vines as usual. This year, cantaloupes and squash made an appearance along with the creeping vines of sweet potatoes. I looked over from picking tomatoes and peppers to see Precious pulling and tugging the vines out of the ground and from beyond the fence. Yes! If we waited another few days there would have been sweet potatoes to harvest on the other side of the fence. I stopped my picking to watch these hidden treasures be tugged and dug out from under the earth. Those small enough to replant we moved to the side until we finished unearthing a bucket full of sweet potatoes. We added the other finds from this round of harvesting and tag teamed carrying the bounty inside. Even in giving and taking some of the food there was still tomatoes and peppers and potatoes falling out of the bucket as we walked into the building. Another Trunk or Treat success! Although we were not able to decorate trunks and be outside due to weather, The Rosemont Coalition showed up with a full spread of treats for the annual Trunk or Treat at Alexander Hamilton Elementary. This year was extra exciting because I got to spend a week of summer with some of the kids at camp. After the fashion show, the students lined up to come through the gym to collect a treat or several treats. We decorated tables with and handed out treats and hugs to students. A few students talked about their trick or treating plans for that evening despite the threat of thunderstorms remaining. The energy is always high and it was great to see the kids cheering for each other during the fashion show and excited for a day filled with treats.Alexander Hamilton Elementary School is located on the Westside of Baltimore. It is a large structure with only 178 students total in grades pre-k to 5. It is one of the many schools in Baltimore that does not have access to clean water, noted by signs that read “do not drink this water, for washing hands only”. The Rosemont Coalition has been in partnership with the school providing after school tutoring and summer enrichment for many of the students. You can check out the status of all schools in and around Baltimore via the Maryland Report Card.Stay tuned for art project and fall group updates!-Mel

  • Round 2
    by The Center Baltimore on September 26, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    Well the summer has come and gone. The staff took the rest of August off to recuperate from a fun-filled and busy nine weeks of summer. September is ending with cool mornings and warm afternoons. Liv and I have officially been living in Baltimore for a full year! There are days I still feel so new to the city and yet, I can drive to a good 90% of our local partners and neighborhoods without using navigation. Now, I may not know exactly where I am, but a quick view of the directions and I am like, “oh, right, I know where that is!” and I am off. I have begun to venture out into new parts of the city and experience Baltimore specific things like duckpin bowling and locally crafted food and drink.  This fall is slow in terms of groups coming for mission service, but very packed for us as a staff. The Center is in a unique position for growth with room to develop and think ahead to the future. In the midst of visioning and reflecting on the last year, we are also organizing and strategizing as we prep for General Assembly (GA) 224 here in Baltimore. In 8 short months we will be completing the final touches of the sacred object art project; finishing meetings and prep for summer camps to begin with our partners; moving offices to our downtown location at First and Franklin Presbyterian Church; and making sure we have all the things needed to welcome groups, commissioners, visiting families, partners, reporters, etc. into the life and work of The Center. So we welcome this time to focus in on the details and prep work needed to make this all happen. Note: Registration for winter and spring groups is open as well as summer registration! Visit our serving information page for more information and calendar. Stay tuned for a special announcement about registering for a service day(s) during the week of GA 224 coming soon in October!-Mel

  • Final Reflections from Emma Kate
    by The Center Baltimore on August 13, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Baltimore is a beautiful, twisted, powerful, and intense city to spend time in. It has a dark history, full of hatred and heartbreak; heartbreak which is seen in the abandoned and boarded up buildings with trees growing out of the caved in roofs, the people walking up and down the street at every traffic light asking for anything you can spare, the balloons and stuffed animals on street corners signaling that something bad has happened there, trash on the streets and the sidewalks. And, yes, we have rats. But, amid all this heartbreak, there is so much beauty in this city, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it this summer.  Throughout the summer, Baltimore has grown on me. I have found a certain comfort in this city that never sleeps, in the sounds and the lights and even in the compactness of the buildings. I’ve even reached a place where I don’t hate driving or parallel parking! While I am excited for the upcoming year and all the incredible things and big decisions I have ahead of me, a piece of my heart will always belong to Baltimore. This job has been one of the most exhausting experiences of my life; there are early mornings, late nights, days spent in the hot and humid weather, last-minute schedule changes, and kids who spill their water on you (not once, not twice, but THREE times). But this job has also proved to be one of the most rewarding and enlightening experiences I could have asked for. This has truly been a learning experience for me, as I have learned about the history of the city, the people who call it home, what I want out of my future career in ministry, and about myself as a human being. The Center programming and the partners that I got to spend my time with this summer have taught me to view mission through different eyes. They have taught me that mission is not about helping people, but it is about building relationships and being vulnerable with the people in your community. Mission is about paying attention to what God is already doing in the community and understanding that we are not there to act as Saviors. We are simply there to love and learn as we have been called to.This summer has been intense in the best way. I have learned how to love fiercely, how to put my heart and soul into any task I am presented with, and how to be confident in my teaching abilities. I have also learned that one of the requirements for any future church I am employed at is that they grow grapes so that we can make our own juice for Communion. I have been overwhelmed by the grace I have experienced from the visiting groups and from the people I have talked to on the street.Baltimore is a hard city to live in, but once you let go of the premonitions and stereotypes of city living and let yourself look deeper into the neighborhoods you’re surrounded by, you can begin to truly see the beauty. There is beauty in the murals scattered on the sides of buildings and in the gardens being planted and taken care of to provide life in this concrete jungle. There is beauty in the 1st grader who offers to share his breakfast with you on the first day of summer camp. There is beauty in watching campers get excited about reading or get excited about bowling for the first time in their lives. There is beauty in bonding with someone receiving food from a food pantry because you both have red hair. There is beauty in this city, but you must be willing to open your heart and your mind and your soul to the places and the people that God is calling you to. You must be willing to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8), no matter where that takes you, because the journey is not always easy, but the destination is so emotional and so incredible and so worth the exhaustion.-Emma Kate Lander

  • Week 9: At Golden Eagles
    by The Center Baltimore on August 13, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    That’s a wrap! I spent the last week of The Center’s summer programming with Burke Presbyterian Church from Burke, VA and Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dickeyville. Together we joined in to put on Golden Eagles camp. Each camp day was full of exciting activities diligently planned by a brilliant lead staff. We went to a CrossFit for kids class, tried our best to solve some escape room puzzles, took part in a neighborhood-wide scavenger hunt, played water games outside every day (!), tie-dyed socks, and, for the whole day on Friday, went to the beach! There was a perfect balance between unstructured play time and pre-planned activities that kept both campers and mentors really engaged.  There were a couple of special things about this week’s camp. First, this is the third year that folks from Burke have come back to participate in Golden Eagles camp. The youth from Burke and the youth at camp, mostly students from Dickey Hill Elementary/Middle, have watched each other grow up! This was my first time at this camp and, from a third party perspective, it was lovely to see them check in on each other and pick up the relationships and connections where they’d left off the previous year. Also, from a staffing position, it was so handy to have a bunch of experts around who already had an idea of how camp runs, what each kid is like and needs, and could clue me in on questions I had about what was coming next. Just as Burke has made an intentional decision to return to Dickey Memorial year after year, the members at Dickey have known these kids since they were in kindergarten! That’s incredible. This year’s camp and celebration banquet on the last day of camp marked the 6th year of their connection to one another. Just like much of Baltimore, boundaries were created to separate the Dickeyville community from the surrounding communities, namely communities of color. While walking through Dickeyville on Sunday afternoon after church, one of the first days Burke folks were in town, Pastor Jennifer pointed out ways that Dickeyville was sending signals to surrounding neighborhoods that they’d prefer if they stayed in their place. One of the roads in Dickeyville abruptly ends before reaching an apartment complex and there are quite a few security company and ‘crime watch’ signs facing those folks’ communities. Dickey Memorial members have committed to getting to know their neighbors and, along with hosting two weeks of camp every summer, several members (known lovingly as The Matriarchy) go to Dickey Hill Elementary/Middle every Tuesday to have snacks, play games, work on homework, and just spend time together. Each of the mentors from Burke were paired with one or two campers to spend extra time with during mentor time. I was really happy to discover that my mentees also love art. We spent some good time together making each other pictures. On one of the final days of camp, one of my mentees gave me a drawing of balloons surrounding a heart with my name inside. Of course, I couldn’t help but tear up. Trust that it has a special place on my fridge at home. A final reflection from my week at Golden Eagles camp came to be with the help of a close friend of The Center, Tracy Watts. A documentary photographer out of Charlotte, NC, and generally incredible person, Tracy spent the whole week documenting Center camps and programming. On Thursday before heading out of town, she offered the kids at Golden Eagles Camp the opportunity to have their portraits taken. She encouraged them, if they were interested, to pick a place around the church to have their photos taken. Some kids were inclined and some not so much. One young woman who I’d been getting to know that week decided that she wanted her portrait taken but only if she could have me and two of the Burke mentors in the shot with her. Of course we obliged! She then led us through the fellowship hall, down the stairs, outside, through the undercroft and up the stairs to the sanctuary. As we walked through the sanctuary she led us up the couple of stairs in front of the altar. We encouraged her to access her artist-self and position us how she wanted. She centered us on the altar and asked us to hold hands. Tracy took our photos. While this moment felt in some ways like goofy fun, it also felt profoundly sacred as it unfolded.When given the opportunity to put herself anywhere in the church, she put herself, alongside friends, in the most conventionally adorned, holy part of the church. Right up front and center in the sanctuary.-Liv Photo by Tracy Watts

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