At FCS, our hyper-focus on local neighborhood has been a hallmark and a boon. It has helped us to weave the fabric of place here in South Atlanta. It’s helped us to build deep relationships, to recognize the image of God in our neighbors. Integrating into this place has given us a common purpose. This quiet, steady integration has huge ramifications, integration for the core of community is common unity with one another. In it, we’ve created a beloved community through small, intentional moments, and long obedience in the same direction.
We live and celebrate this approach, a strategy of living into a microcosm. It’s been a fabulous journey, but I think sometimes it can make it easy for me to think about South Atlanta as its own isolated unit. Thinking about it only that way can make me miss the beauty of the larger story. In our work to create a community together, we’ve become part of a bigger narrative — the path of building vibrancy and flourishing in Atlanta, let alone our nation or world. Tons of neighborhoods like South Atlanta exist around the country and around the globe. All over, people are looking for strategies and plans to bring sustainable community development. We have begun to accomplish what many neighborhoods long for and dream of here in South Atlanta. When I hold that reality in mind, a new element of beauty in cultivating places like South Atlanta emerges; our neighborhood’s transformation is not only a witness to God’s shalom in its own right; it serves as a window and reminder of what other neighborhoods can do.
As I look back on our forty years, I can tell we’ve already learned to interact with a larger ecosystem in our work. In these past four decades, we’ve needed to think comprehensively; we’ve had to network with people who had skills we didn’t. We’ve had to gain expertise and build muscles in unfamiliar fields like real estate, community organizing, local politics, and more. As we’ve done so, we’ve held the idea that everyone wants to be known and belong. The zoning official wants to be known. The superintendent needs relationship. It’s with this mindset that we’ve built a web of allies. Now, when we show up at a real estate agency or local political systems, we can contend as allies with those worlds. And we can do so from a place of friendship and relationship, just as we would expect in the neighborhood.
We’ve been blessed to create a great template. It’s a template that people can use to knit relationship at the hyper-local level in a way that spills into the larger story. Our quiet movements in South Atlanta have allowed us to stretch and grow. Now, instead of just being under the radar, focused on only ourselves, we’re can come out in a way that allows our greater context to see who we are. We relay our story to encourage and empower others. Transformation is possible! We’ve found tools that can help it come, and we’d like to share. We weave our story into Atlanta and our nation’s fabric so that others can know what work is possible in their own locale, their own city, their own nation.
By: Donell Woodson