Citizens and community groups of Peoria, Illinois have an opportunity to join themselves in the cause of making and creating a safer community.
In order to spread the word on events more quickly, we have opened a Facebook page as an informational exchange for pastors, churches and community leaders who will avail themselves to that specific cause. (Please sign up for that page if you are a member of Facebook) This site is to set forth strategies and community services to address the declining morality among our youth, violence and violent activities within the community, drug proliferation and the problems associated with it at a grass roots level. We also want to rise as a community to address gangs and gang related issues as a solid and cohesive body of citizens and community groups.
We are our brother's keepers and the avenue fit for community restoration. In 2010 we plan to begin a new mission of joint service and ego-effacing community involvement to tangibly address the problems that we face.
This is what we intend to do:
Development Of A Community Action Plan
One of the essential elements in this venture is the establishment of what I call a "Community Action Plan". A Community Action Plan is a preemptive measure designed to address issues within various sections of our community and focus specific attention on the areas experiencing the most devastating troubles.
The development of this plan involves serious and dedicated participation of 4 groups:
1- The churches located within the problem areas
2- The neighborhood associations
3- Peoria, Illinois citizens (and others wishing to assist)
4- Business organizations and entities which operate within the effected areas.
Until now, the inner city community, and black community in particular, has never developed a plan for in and of itself. This is part of the problem. A community with no vision for itself and an underestimation of the value of its component parts will remain underserved. It's time for all that to change.
Although an appropriate plan has many essential pieces, community safety is the first area to address especially due to what we've all witnessed in 2009.
A safe community includes a reaffirming and building up of social and moral values, family and social standards, gaining increased accountability from social organizations, businesses and financial institutions that operate within the community, and encouraging greater accountability from governmental agencies such as the City Police, City Council and City Licensing Committees.
Warning: This will not be another Peoria "window dress" operation. One that looks good, feels good but yields no results. Our aim is to actually place some effort and action behind our faith and hopes.
Since the church is such a vital part of this transformation, definitive actions will be a measure of our joint success. I encourage each individual to challenge their pastor and spiritual leader to be involved. Participation in the Pastor's Association, although encouraged, IS NOT essential to any church, pastor, or leader's participation.
All hands on deck!
In 2010 I will do my best to encourage the model of morality transfer that is rooted in African American and ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) cultures. This model is somewhat different than the model we have become accustomed to in western society however this model is highly effective and still in operation in may homes and families today, albeit not nearly enough.
1- Value Transfer Through The Elders & Community Leaders
In western society all it takes for one to teach and instruct others is a certain accreditation or certification usually given by others. In ANE cultures teaching and value transfer was done by a specific group of people with not only knowledge, but also experience, who were charged to preserve the culture and transfer information accurately and intensely.
Biblically, Paul speaks of this same method of information transfer in I Cor. 11:23 stating that which he had "received" of the Lord he also "delivered". Dr. Richard Bauckham in his ground breaking work 'Jesus & The Eyewitnesses' [Eerdmans 2006], reveals the terminology and usages of those particular words, claiming that these inflections indicated a student/teacher or owner/apprentice type of relationship that facilitated careful transmission of certain facts, guarded over by meticulous attention to detail. This type of information transfer was essential to preserve culture, message, meaning and overall purpose.
In other words there was a certain qualification of standards for information transfer from the transferor to the transferee. The transferor had to be qualified by experience and full knowledge of the subject matter and the transferee had to be equally able and ready to receive such information transfer reciting it properly and in context.
We do not use this method today on a wide scale and our community suffers as a result. Example, how many of us are yet blessed to cherish the words of senior members of our families? Do we not pay special attention to them and what they say to us on special occasions and holidays? Some of us may not have that experience, but others know that the experience and wisdom of our elders can be a very good teacher when that experience and wisdom is sound, has endured the test of time and right.
This is the model is not dependent upon the aged of the individuals transferring values, but it is dependent upon the integrity and wisdom of those that do.
2- Value Transfer Within The Context Of Group & Community
Building upon principle #1 we also find that values transferred with a group setting were values that are immediately made accountable.
In other words, in a private setting no one but the teacher and the student may know the information transferred or the expectation as a result of what is said. However, in the group setting, expectations are delivered publicly and a system of accountability, measurement and monitoring is immediately set in place.
Not only is public accountability is essential, but public pulse is essential and is a must. The status and health of the community assessed by the community itself, further breeds a sense of community and allows individuals to come away with common concerns and remedies to common and sometimes previously otherwise unknown problems. In a word, it's communication and a flow of information on a regular basis within the community.
3- Where Do I Come In?
You are essential to the operation of the complete plan. Each community member brings certain talents and experiences to the table and certain unique knowledge of their particular neighborhood to light.
Because of the uniqueness of each individual and diversity of gifts from neighborhood to neighborhood, there are certain opportunities to inject life, health and direction into what was otherwise dead and lifeless situations. You are essential to that purpose.
We cannot afford to believe that a "star minister", "ministry" or "charismatic personality" will address the multiple issue that must be addressed within our community and deliver the value statements that we must encourage our children to grasp on their own and by their own accord. Frankly, this work encompasses one individual and needs ownership of the community and not a single individual.
Under President Bill Clinton, then First Lady Hillary Clinton, produced a book and delivered the ancient African proverb that "it takes a village to raise a child". This saying originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture and proverb "Ora na azu nwa" which means it takes the community/village to raise a child.
I pose that it will take a community/village to build a city. The efforts of our city leaders, though commendable are not able to take full effect for all of us until we begin to build together.
Pastor Harvey Burnett
Exec Driector Peoria Assn. Of Pastors