It's your first day as a church planter. What do you do?
On July 1 Jamison Galt, with a year of neighborhood potlucks and prayer meetings behind him, sat at a table in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill Park and drew a triangle. Borrowing from theologian John Frame, he labeled the angles "Normative" (things church planters and pastors must do), "Personal" (the unique gifts he brings to the table), and "Contextual" (the needs and opportunities of the neighborhood). This embryonic chart will help him sort out what's expected of him and how to proceed.
He expects to spend the rest of the summer thinking, praying, meeting with pastors, extending friendships and social networking-and raising money. He thought he might have to start the church as a bi-vocational pastor, but the Park Slope congregation of Brooklyn Presbyterian Church (PCA), where he has been on staff, is supporting him until the end of this year. "We always exist on God's provision," Galt says, but it isn't always so obvious. He feels the urgency to raise funds, in part because only last month he and his wife Laura returned from Ethiopia with two newly adopted children-daughter Tihun, age 3½, and son Solomon, age 10 months.
The Galt family, which also includes 6-year-old twins Adaline and Arthur, moved from Park Slope to Clinton Hill a year ago so the twins could start kindergarten in a nearby public school, PS 20. Clinton Hill-home to 50,000 people who live in a 1.3-square-mile area-is poorer, less gentrified, and more demographically diverse than Park Slope. It boasts expensive brownstones near Fort Greene Park-designed, like Central Park, by Frederick Law Olmstead-and big housing projects and co-ops. Clinton Hill has architecture from every decade of the past 150 years, which makes it visually interesting.
According to the last census, the neighborhood is about two-thirds African-American, with a strong cultural heritage. Richard Wright wrote Native Son there. Spike Lee's film studio is there. Rappers Mos Def and Notorious B.I.G. hail from nearby. It's also home to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, three universities (including Pratt Institute) and 14,000 students. Galt says the neighborhood's "A" distinctives-African-American, Artistic, Academic-both excite and intimidate him.
Home for the Galts is a two-story, 1,100-square-foot, shot-gun duplex, with living areas on one floor and two bedrooms and "the sleeping quarters" on the other. The sleeping quarters are just big enough for two IKEA bunkbeds and room to walk between them. It leaves the kids' bedroom for toys. The apartment is two blocks from Pratt, which makes it convenient as the Galts interact with students and faculty at the prestigious art school. Over the next 20 years, the Brooklyn churches hope to reach college and then high-school students, with an aim of developing church leadership from the community.
Last year Laura Galt volunteered 20 hours per week at PS 20. She helped establish an art program by bringing in art educators from Pratt. She made contacts throughout the neighborhood that will help them as they move forward, as will their interest in food. Brooklyn is the epicenter of a burgeoning food movement that expresses itself in farmers markets and traditionally crafted beers, cheeses, chocolates, pickles, and other foodstuffs. Jamison lectures and writes about a theology of food. He hopes to marry this interest with his concern for urban poverty-backyard/rooftop gardening is one way to do that.
We hope to report next year on how the Galts have done.
Fatter and sicker
As a nation we are getting fatter, sicker, and less active. A new report on obesity shows we've fattened up since 1991, when no state had an adult obesity rate above 20 percent. Now only Colorado can make that boast.
The key measurement in this discussion is BMI, body/mass index, calculated by dividing weight (in kilograms) by the square of height (in meters). Below 25 is normal, 25 to almost 30 is overweight, 30 and over is obese. Thirty-eight states have an adult obesity rate above 25 percent. Eight of those states-Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia-have obesity rates above 30 percent, with Mississippi the highest: 33.8 percent.
Nine of the states with the highest obesity rates are in the South. The 10th is Michigan. Diabetes and hypertension rates track with obesity rates. So do rates of inactivity.
Poor people, minorities, and folks with less education have higher obesity rates. More than one-third of children ages 10-17 are obese (16.4 percent) or overweight (18.2 percent).
States have reacted to obesity by passing all kinds of laws:
• 33 states have a tax on soda.
• 28 states plus D.C. have laws regulating the nutrition content of "competitive foods" sold in schools and at bake sales.
• 24 states have laws limiting individuals from suing restaurants and food manufacturers for making them fat.
• 20 states have laws mandating BMI measuring or other weight monitoring tests in schools.
• 5 states have statewide menu labeling laws.
President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. According to the Census Bureau:
• 11 million Americans age 6 or older need help with everyday activities.
• 3.3 million (age 15+) use a wheelchair. Another 10 million use crutches or a cane.
• 1.8 million (age 15+) can't read the printed word.
• 1 million (age 15+) can't hear a conversation.