I participated in my first Safety Commission meeting. We meet in the council’s chambers which is an impressive auditorium. Front and center is a massive dark wood bench that is five feet tall and probably 60 feet wide. When the council is in session, the members are seated behind it in high back leather chairs. This room is designed to give the appearance of power to the people seated behind the bench. When the Safety Commission is in session, we sit up there.
This seating arrangement will take me a while to get used to. It’s not my style. I prefer to preach on the same floor as parishioners, not from the pulpit. During Vestry meetings, I sit around the table with everyone else and in my office I sit at my desk only when there isn’t enough room.
Of a crowd of thirty that night, we had eight speakers and they were unhappy. At issue is a community with a multiplicity of substantial complaints. Their park has become party-central, vandalism and graffiti are taking over, residents from outside their community are using their on-street parking, a side street has become a cut-through, and a major development is just about to break ground and possibly wreak even more havoc in the already disrupted living space. They’re turning to their local government for solutions. It was difficult for me to be sitting behind the bench and under the constraints of Robert’s Rules of Order. I’d rather be seated in a circle, with some coffee, and talk through their complaints and search for solutions.
One shining spot of the city is Sergeant Tarr of the Chula City PD. Prior to the meeting, he met with residents in their community. He walked with them and heard their complaints. He cited cars for parking improperly, addressed the graffiti, and, on his own time, got to know the people who live there. Additionally, he is sending patrols over to the area and has made it known that the residents can contact him directly with any questions or concerns. In other words, he believes in circling the chairs and brewing coffee, too.
On Wednesday night, I saw two modalities of government at work. One is to have some appointed commissioners hearing the complaints of the people and then discussing various ways to help. The other is to walk with the people, see where they live, and experience the problems themselves. Both modalities are important; including the structure and order of Robert’s Rules. Nevertheless, following Sergeant Tarr’s lead, I am meeting with the president of one of the homeowner’s associations to see what they need.
Scripture gives us two images of God, one seated high on a throne executing judgments and the other a good shepherd who walks among the creation and lays his life down for the sheep. Although both images are important, I identify with the latter of these two images – the Good Shepherd. He leads and guides me and is present as I sleep and present when I awake. I believe that he will not take me to the throne of God and accuse me of all the things I have done wrong, but rather will walk me through the valley of death and in his house I will live for evermore. Thus, it is example of the Good Shepherd that I try to follow, both at church, at home, and even in the Safety Council.