“You want to be purposefully rooted in the place that you live.”
-Scott Austin, Pastor at Artisan Church in Rochester, NY
Why yes I do Pastor Scott. YES I DO.
All the way back in 2006, KMN and I were fortunate to stumble upon the young, vibrant Artisan Church community just down the street from where I lived. Although work and travel often divided our attendance, Artisan quickly became our “church home” in Rochester. And today, although we miss the community terrible, the wonders of modern technology and a few Apple devices deliver each sermon to our kitchen table over Sunday morning breakfast.
The quotation above was shared a few weeks ago by Scott during a sermon series entitled Gardening in Babylon. The central passage from this series is:
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you, and pray on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” -Jeremiah 29:7
To me, this sentence makes good, solid sense -and I don’t really think it matters what your feelings about Christianity are. Take out the “pray” part, if you are so inclined. No matter where you are, or what brought you there, I find it hard to imagine a situation where your well-being and that of your community wouldn’t be intricately linked.
To really, truly live somewhere means to make it your home, even if only for a few years – or months, if that’s how you roll. That means investing – in the people, schools, local businesses, and infrastructure. That means recognizing the community’s strengths, helping improve its weaknesses, and working consistently toward the dream of an even better place. That means contributing, even in small ways, whether you intend to stay for a few months, a few years, or the rest of your life. That means making the choice to help shape, guide, and grow this home into the kind of place where you (and hopefully other people) want to live.
To me, this is what being “purposefully rooted” means. The idea of being rooted, of nurturing a relationship with a place and people, and of really digging deep into a community, strikes a chord with me. Roots are important to me. I grew up in one town – one community – and lived there for my entire life, until I left for college (which was less than an hour away). In contrast, I’ve been a bit of a nomad for the past few years, moving from Rochester to Pasadena to Hollywood to Sussex County to Singapore. Still, in all of these places – whether I lived there for 3 weeks or 13 months – I tried to be purposefully rooted.
Roots manifest in many ways – from community dinners to patronizing local businesses to volunteering down the street. But (and you had to be expecting we’d come back to this eventually) one of my favorite ways to be rooted is to RUN. Running is how I put down ROOTS – running lets me grab hold, take refuge, and secure myself in a new place. This happens in one thousand different ways…
Running is what forces me to slow down enough to see the coffee shop on the corner, the yoga studio upstairs, and the sign advertising the Weekly Farmer’s Market.
Running is the first way I connect with my neighbors – the fellow runner along the canal, the woman down the street who walks her dog each morning, and the security guard at the building next door.
Running is how I make friends – from the local trail runners, to the track club, to the folks who read this blog and drop me an email.
Running is how I make a place home. And I know that I’m home…
…when I can’t quite decide which group to join for a weekend run.
…when I learn the quickest traffic lights, the uneven spots on the pavement, and the undulations on my favorite trails.
…when I know where I want to go for a post-run snack.
…when I know the local races, their pros and cons, and the best spectating spot for each.
…when I can introduce my local clients to running spots they’ve never seen before.
…when I can step out the door, lace up my sneakers, breathe deeply, and feel…
…deeply and purposefully rooted.
Are you “deeply rooted” in your community? How do you establish roots in a new place? How do you deepen those roots after you’ve lived somewhere for some time?
[This blog will likely never dwell on my relationship with religion in general, or Christianity specifically. But for anyone who is intensely curious…don’t be. My position is unusual, but not especially interesting. I’ll only caution you against drawing any conclusions without really knowing the whole story.]