Ministry Context or What I Learned about Portland Last Week – Community Sensitivity


Immersion Experience

Today, the City of Portland releases its Comprehensive Plan for zoning reorganization throughout the city. Last Monday, Marty Stockton with the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability met with SouthEast Uplift’s Land Use and Transportation Subcommittee to preview the plan. I joined 2 Subcommittee representatives and 4 local residents to hear her presentation. I learned a ton!

Firstly2014-07-01 12 resize, Marty’s job is tough and multifaceted. She did a great job explaining processes and philosophies that have guided the creation of the Comprehensive Plan (which apparently is a plan to have a plan). Her task involves vast knowledge of a large area, vast knowledge of historical elements, and a vast knowledge of legal parameters. It also involves envisioning the future of Portland, preserving its current value and navigating many competing interests…all in the name of the “common good”. As she presented, Marty revealed deep knowledge of many particular properties within Sunnyside. Apparently, Sunnyside contains A LOT of zoning abnormalities. It is also home to A LOT of ‘Portland flavor’ neighbors with distinct personalities and histories that are evolving. How do you allow for that evolution while preserving what needs to be saved? Marty admitted that she was ‘a softy’ and wanted to preserve some properties strictly because she liked them. I took that to mean she found value in them that couldn’t necessarily be quantified. And today, the Bureau’s many months of hard work will be completely trashed by those competing interests. The public will view and pick apart things ‘wrong’ with the Plan, as if they could do better.

Among the concepts that Marty shared was “Community Sensitivity”. Not only is she a city employee, she is a city resident. When a community member suggested that the city was only interested in money, she quickly and succinctly objected. While economies matter, so too does quality of life…that unquantifiable element that makes something lovable, unique, pleasant, beautiful and interesting. [I’m projecting meaning into what she actually said, not quoting.] Community Sensitivity requires knowledge and ‘feel’. Marty shared about a property with a particularly challenging zoning abnormality. She not only knew the information but also understood that that entity is valuable to the neighborhood. The zoning solution may require some creativity in order preserve that space in the future.

Community Sensitivity in Ministry

I’ve been thinking about Community Sensitivity ever since that evening with the Land Use Subcommittee. I am so raw and new here; I lack knowledge. So right now I am operating on feel and values. I am walking a lot to see Sunnyside on its own terms. I am exploring cultural elements within the neighborhood and town (gonna try cycling soon). I am taking copious notes on initial findings. I am checking my own perspective to honor my own ignorance. I am also trying to speak those things that I know to be true, aware that yesterday’s truths can become tomorrow’s falsehoods.

Observe, observe, observe is the advise of the Bishop. I would add Ask, ask, ask; Reflect, reflect, reflect. Seek and ye shall find, someone else once said.

Community Sensitivity is about sharing Christ in ‘real time’. In the end, I still have values that I want to promote: compassion, service, learning and celebration. Who needs served? is a ‘community sensitive’ question. What do I need to learn? is another.

Other things last week:

  • Explored Portland Farmer’s Markets
  • Explored the Willamette River Greenway Inventory
  • Learned about Sunnyside’s history from DS
  • Learned about the district from a clergy colleague
[Image: Belmont Street, Portland, OR]

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