Editor’s note: Three articles represent three perspectives on communities working together in the city of Baltimore. Those involved come from a wide variety of faiths and backgrounds. They are well aware of the problems of violence, division, mistrust, poverty and more in their city. However, they are committed to finding common ground and working to make their community better.
By Mildred Kreider
For years, the corner of Poplar Grove Street and Edmondson Avenue in west Baltimore has been a center of drug activity and violence. The corner is a commercial area: Takeout food is served from behind bulletproof windows and liquor stores serve as gathering areas for men with time on their hands. Sun-faded advertisements are taped to windows of various local small business ventures. White faces are few and far between.
When there was a call for a nonviolent presence on Baltimore streets in the summer of 2013, Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church members went to that corner, determined to provide an alternative to the violence that would not go away. Our message? That God came into our world in human form to teach us a different way to live together.
Vivian, retired from the food service industry, brought her warm smile and willing hands every Friday. Joan joined us on the corner after she retired from a successful career in government contracting. One afternoon she said, “This is just like the five loaves and two fishes.” That day we had brought some cookies and juice and there was enough for everyone.
I knew what she was talking about. Being on the corner is the closest I have been to being in the presence of the teacher of Galilee. At the corner I look across the street and see the large Western Cemetery, and I think of the Valley of Kidron outside the wall of Jerusalem.
The corner is on the crest of a hill, and I think of the Mount of Olives where Jesus and his followers gathered to talk and pray.
In west Baltimore, some distance from the corner, is an historic public bath that was built in 1901. I think of the pool of Siloam, outside the wall of Jerusalem, where families would bring those needing healing.
I look at the city police presence and think of the Roman soldiers who maintained a military presence to keep the peace.
Stories of Jesus’ ministry come to mind, and sometimes I imagine a Baltimore story from Luke: Soon afterward he went on through west Baltimore down Edmondson Avenue to Catonsville and Ellicott City, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. In the crowd following Jesus were disciples from Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church and other churches and people from the corner.
The people on the corner are the people of the land, the same who flocked around Jesus 2,000 years ago.
We cannot destroy the evil in our land by beefing up our police force or withdrawing to a safer place. Only by being an alternative in a place where the people find too few alternatives can we make a way to peace and safety.
The people on the corner are the people of the land. Their curiosity led them to notice a different gathering and come together at an intersection at the top of a hill.
We need to be where they are.
MILDRED KREIDER is a retired nurse educator and member of Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church.