This past weekend Wayfarers Church, i.e. Marc and I and our housemates and neighbors, hosted the Anchor School of Ministry as they spent some time in New Orleans praying and serving the Treme and French Quarter community. This is our second time hosting an ASM group (as well as several other youth groups from various churches last summer), and it never ceases to amaze me to get out of my own perspective for a while and view my home city through brand new eyes. I watch people experience polar ends of the emotional spectrum–they fall in love with New Orleans, but they also cry for her.
The way I tried to explain the spiritual climate of New Orleans, especially of our neighborhood, is that we are a celebratory city. We celebrate our accomplishments, our passions, and our relationships, but we also celebrate our demons, our addictions, and the brokenness in our hearts that is poised to crumble us entirely, staved off only by engulfing ourselves in the next of an endless line of parties and parades.
The ASM students saw both the joyous and tragic sides of our celebration over the course of the weekend–Bourbon Street on Friday night, Krewe du Vieux on Saturday, bounce night at St. Roch on Saturday night, and tons of brass bands and seconds lines interspersed between. They danced and sang and stayed out later than most of them had in a long time, but they also had meaningful conversations with strangers, prayed without ceasing, and put their hands to work to make a small practical difference at one house on one block of this big crazy place. To me, it was a beautiful thing to see.
On their last night in town, I asked the group to write or draw prayers for Treme on some extra art canvases I had in the craft room. The housemates and I have taken to decorating the front of the house with trinkets and random art that makes us smile, and the idea was to add the prayer canvasses to our developing collage so that we could see them on a daily basis and be reminded of the hope that we have for our neighborhood. I was just expecting some simple prayers or words, but I should have known better dealing with a church group full of artists, because what I got back were these:
Coincidentally (or perhaps not?), I have a large chunk of Isaiah 61 stamped onto a larger canvas in the hallway of our house. This is what it says:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
Isaiah 61: 1-4
Here’s to freedom, good news, and restoration. Laissez le revolution rouler!