• Week 2: Golden Summer
    by The Center Baltimore on July 16, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church (USA) on the westside of Baltimore has been working with Dickey Elementary/Middle School up the hill for years, doing an after school program called “Golden Eagles.” The Golden Eagles are a group of mostly 5th and 6th graders a few who have been coming since they were in 3rd grade when a group of retired church members began going to the school, to read with the children. This program morphed into the after school program and is now one of the first summer camps and programming with The Center has available for visiting groups. I began working with the after school program at the start of 2019, while Pastor Jennifer was on maternity leave. The Golden Eagles program has ebbed and flowed in the number of students because the school has seen large turnover as students leave for better schooling, parents find safer neighborhoods and even better job opportunities. This turnover is one of the many layers that neighborhoods face throughout Baltimore. Even with supportive administration (this had to be rebuilt recently) there is still opportunities that are needed and lacking to reach a significant number of students. The Golden Eagles program can host about 12 students after school and up to 20 for summer camp. For kids the start of summer begins by counting down the hours to the last day of school, and counting down the hours on that day until the bell rings. For Baltimore students, the last days of school were extended due to winter weather emergencies at the start of 2019! So, it meant mid-course changes in how camp looks and functions for the week. The Center hosted a High School Robotics team, Camelot Robotics, from the tri-city area near Durham, NC to work with the Golden Eagles program at Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church (USA). The Robotics team brought their program ideas, energy and excitement to about 15 Golden Eagle students at camp. The school day ended, and camp began with water games to cool off after the walk from the school to the church in the hot June sun. On the first day we talked about the stark contrast of Dickeyville the historic town and community today, against the neighboring apartment complex above it. The boundaries marked by small signs, the road ending, and a small wooden fence that doesn’t stretch completely across the area it is dividing. By the end of the week both the Robotics team and the Golden Eagles were acting like old friends, even distant siblings. What I will remember from this week is the moment I attended the end of the year basketball awards program after school with Patrick Ireland, a youth from the Camelot Robotics Team. Three of the Golden Eagles were being recognized for their performance on the team, two this year and one from last season since the awards program was ended due to funding and other challenges. We sat in the non-air conditioned gym at desks and chairs sized appropriately for elementary and middle school students. There were balloons left over from a previous award event trying to stay inflated. The Coach was setting up and yelling that the boys shooting hoops didn’t mess up his display before the program got started. There was organized chaos of students in and out of the gym grateful to be released from classes, but resistant to leaving the school grounds and to end conversations with friends. Some parents and siblings of the students being recognized were there and beginning to arrive. Coach finally set out the awards, and the food, and called for those playing to put the basketballs away and to sit down. A few more seconds to arrange this and that and the program began, us across the court watching this tailor-made fanfare come together. I offered to help hand out food, but was invited to relax and enjoy. Patrick and I participated like proud parents or siblings to the students. We cheered and took pictures along with a few others there to celebrate the students. It was a moment I pointed out later that tells the heart of a community. We were not outsiders, the camp leaders waiting for the program to end to take our students to camp; we were a part of the community. We were invited to be just like everyone else around us, and it gave us time to talk and deepen our understanding about each other and the school where the students learn and play. It was a twist to the afternoon that no one could have planned for and the appreciation the students expressed in us being there at the end of camp days later is priceless. -M […]

  • Week 4: Life
    by The Center Baltimore on July 13, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    When I was growing up, I never understood why my parents spent so much time working in our garden; they would spend hours weeding in the heat just for those weeds to grow back a few days later. And then they would do it all over again. Maybe it was because I’ve never had a green thumb like them – trust me, I’ve tried keeping succulents in my dorm room and somehow, I always ruin them. Or, maybe it was because I never took the time to learn about why gardening was so important to them.Last week, I had the opportunity to serve at Glenwood Life Counseling Center with a group from Watts Street Baptist Church located in Durham, NC. We spent our time there serving in their recovery garden. Their recovery garden resides in what used to be a vacant lot and found its home there because a staff member noticed how empty the land looked and decided that something needed to be done about that. Precious saw that recovery was about life, not desolation and vacant lots. With the help of community members, Glenwood Life has been tending to and caring for this garden for a few years. They have plants native to Maryland, as well as a vegetable garden. We spent our first day in the recovery garden weeding – I spent hours weeding (and I have the sunburn to prove it!) just like my parents used to, and still do. At the end of our week there, we mulched the flowerbeds of native plants and the walkways in the vegetable garden, learning about how much mulch needs to be around the plants, how close it should be, how tall it should be etc.  By the end of the week, I finally started to grasp why my parents spent so much time and energy taking care of our garden at home – it was the same reason Precious and the patients at Glenwood Life spend so much time and energy on and in the recovery garden – because they were creating life. One of the patients who frequents the garden when he can, was kind enough to give us his own personal testimony of how important the garden was for his recovery. Baltimore is constantly showing me different ways to see life around me. Sometimes, it is in the form of a child’s laughter at summer camp, and sometimes it is in the native plants and vegetable gardens that have taken root in the vacant lots of the city. Baltimore is inviting me to open my eyes and see life like I have never seen it before, asking me to embrace life and all it has to offer. Baltimore has been showing me what it means to truly live. And, hey, who knows? Maybe after this summer I’ll give gardening another chance and bring new life to other aspects of my world.-Emma Kat […]

  • Weeks 2 and 3: Can I Touch Your Hair?
    by The Center Baltimore on July 13, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Hi friends, It’s been quite a full couple of weeks. A little bit more than halfway through the summer, I have plenty to catch you up on! My days with groups have been filled with jumping rope, meals in Patterson Park, bilingual worship, aerial silks practice with our friends at Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church, cornhole, math games, water splashing… But, before I get too carried away, I think that sharing every dynamic, kinetic detail of my time spent with visiting groups and our partners thus far would be…A long blogMaybe a bit tiring to read. So, as I find myself reflecting on where the summer has taken me so far with our visiting groups from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, Oak Hill Presbyterian Church from St. Louis, MO and First Pres. in Allentown Pennsylvania, I find myself reflecting upon both how we’ve moved together and how we’ve joined in stillness together. I believe that both our shared motion and our shared stillness these past couple of weeks have connected us to one another in their commonness, seems silly but what more can we do together but move and be still? Any given day with a visiting group is dense with buzzing, animate energy. Sometimes this feels like palpable nervousness. After all, members from visiting groups are in a new city, meeting new friends and members from our partner communities are introducing themselves to strangers and sharing their neighborhoods. Sometimes the kinetic energy looks like attempts to hula-hoop with ten hula-hoops at once, “I know I can do it! Just watch.” There have been walks toward the park, arms full of chalk and cornhole boards. Sometimes we move our bodies together as we sing our Soaring Eagles Learning Camp morning song and practice our American Sign Language. Sometimes we shake our tambourines and tap our feet to songs that are new to us, sung in a language we’re leaning to a beat we don’t all know quite yet. There are running hugs, foot races, and even moving through the hallways of Eutaw Marshburn as we model the planet’s orbit in our Hands On Science station at Learning Camp. I think kinetic energy of this sort makes it easy for me to see the Sacred. Surely She is present in  our visible and physical movement toward one another, through the park and toward the playground, between knee-high cafeteria lunch tables for one last hug before we say ‘Goodbye for now’. I’m reminded of some of my favorite lyrics by a musician I adore. In Map on a Wall Lucy Dacus writes:“I've walked on two legs since I was a child,but when did I realize that some ways out,past the horizon for thousands of milesthere are people like me, walking on legs like mine?Coming closer and farther away.Coming to me and from my embrace.”I know our visiting groups and my Baltimore neighbors have moved toward one another in our dancing, clapping, and tambourine shaking. And, in so doing, have moved beyond barriers that might have otherwise kept them apart. Past our geographic horizons, some groups traveling hundreds of miles. Beyond class and age differences, rejoicing in ice pops knows no age! Deriving part of their value from their rarity, are the slower, quieter moments of connection that contain a stillness. These moments, even more than the louder, hectic ones, have made me a proud group leader and reminded me that curiosity can be a brave act. At the Soaring Eagles Learning Camp one of the learning stations my group, the fourth and fifth graders visited daily was The Book Nook. The Book Nook was the only space in the school that had access to air conditioning. The lights were always turned off and we all spoke to one another in inside voices. Every day Book Nook leaders read us a couple of books. My favorite one was called “Don’t Touch My Hair!,” which was about how important it is to ask permission before touching each other’s hair when we’re curious about it.  But, before we heard these stories we took a moment to notice our breath and to practice our centering mantras. To practice our mantras we closed our eyes and sat up straight, counting on our fingers, word by word, something we needed to hear ourselves repeat. Ms. Bonnie from the Book Nook gave us a couple examples “I, Am, Smart. I, Am, Strong. I, Am, Safe.” We were then encouraged to practice our own mantras for a minute. One day, after the allotted time to practice our mantras was long over, I noticed one of my students continuing to practice his as the book reading went on. I was immediately proud of him for taking his still-self seriously.I found myself so eager to know what he needed to hear said over, over, and over again..One of my favorite days of this summer (so far) was bussing up to Woodberry Crossing with our Soaring Eagles campers to enjoy a day in the expansive outdoors. As we ran outside, held bunnies, and splashed in the river, much of the day was a sweaty blur. Still, two moments of stillness stick with me. The bus ride up to Woodberry Crossing from Baltimore City was a loud one. We were all excited and wondering ‘how long is this gonna take?!’ Partway through the bus ride I decided to let my hair down and enjoy the breeze. After a few moments of fascination at my fluffy curls, one of the students I was sitting by and had gotten to know that week began asking me questions about my hair, one of them being “may I touch it?” I asked if I could touch her braids and we spoke for a while about how we loved each other’s hair and thought it was beautiful. The bus ride back from Woodberry Crossing was, as you might imagine, not so loud. In fact, it was nearly silent. The day had been so packed that many kids and youth leaders fell asleep. In the cutest of cases, on each other’s shoulders. Enjoying the quiet and taking note of who’d fallen asleep, I caught one of my visiting group youth leaders digging into his backpack. Out he pulled a towel that he folded into a makeshift pillow and gently slid under a very sleepy camper’s head. Such a gentle, sweet moment made me proud of the youth leader and happy that his friend felt comfortable enough to rest on his shoulder. I’m eager to see where our shared chaos and stillness brings us the rest of the summer. Until next blog, Liv […]

  • Week 1: Abundance
    by The Center Baltimore on June 20, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    Abundance (noun) – a very large quantity of something; plentifulness of the good things of life Growing up in the suburbs outside of Baltimore, I had never really been exposed to the city, city driving, or city parking in the same capacity as I am during my time here this summer. I was more anxious than I would’ve liked to admit about taking on the city, but after just a few weeks I know that God called me here for a reason. As cheesy and cliché as that may sound, interning at The Center was where I needed to be this summer; I am growing and learning, experiencing the intricate and intimate details of my vocation, and immersing myself in mission like I’ve never immersed myself before. Last week, I got to immerse myself in mission with Union Church of Hinsdale (UCC) outside Chicago, Illinois and Westminster Presbyterian Church from Austin, Texas. Mel and I joined these incredible groups as we served alongside the community of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church. Together we learned about their story, their congregation, their programs, their mission, and the Amazing Port Street Garden. But something that I personally learned about was abundance.During one of our debriefs early in the week, we asked members of the group to share with us a word or phrase that exemplified their experience with the week so far. Honestly, I don’t remember what my word was, but someone from the group used “abundance” and that really stuck with me. One of our projects at Amazing Grace was to pick cherries from the beautiful cherry tree in the garden, which would then be pitted and used for baking. While we were picking, standing on ladders and step-ladders, we filled so many bowls with cherries (like a lot!). Every time we thought we were done with a section on the tree, we’d look again, and it was as if magically more cherries would appear, hiding under leaves and glistening in the sun. There was definitely no shortage of cherries from that tree. On Friday, we served with Rockrose City Farm, learning about their story and mission. Though we only spent a few hours with them, I could see how abundance described their ministry as well. We spent our time weeding plots so that sweet potatoes could be planted. Every year, Rockrose City Farm plants an abundance of sweet potatoes that are then harvested at the end of the summer and donated to food pantries, such as the one run by Amazing Grace, because the sweet potato is a universal vegetable and most cultures have a dish that uses them.  When I started my internship at The Center this summer, I didn’t know what to expect, and I sure didn’t expect the abundance I have quickly been welcomes into. I didn’t expect the abundance of cherries or sweet potatoes, but I also didn’t expect the abundance of love and support I have seen in the communities and felt from the communities. Growing up 30 minutes outside of Baltimore, this world is completely different than the one I am used to, but there is comfort in bearing witness to the abundance of God’s Love at work in this city and in seeing God’s Mission being carried out by the amazing and beautiful people here. There is comfort in discovering the abundance of cherries in the world.-Emma Kate, Center Intern […]

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