Over the last two months, folks at The Oak Tree have been working with our secular incarnation, The Grove Community, to transform housing that has been allowed to deteriorate by slum landlords (and is now threatened by the wrecking ball), into quality affordable housing in our West Central Neighborhood. St Paul's UMC voted to support this effort by investing in this program with part of the $700,000 that the new owners paid for our historic building on Monroe. The return on this investment would be on par with what we have been earning by investing in Wall Street. And we would be supporting our local neighborhood, instead of large international corporations.
I was proud of our SPUMC congregation for seeing the significance of this ministry, and embracing the opportunity to be engaged with our community. Keith Kelley, who has been a tireless activist for West Central, has been mentoring us in this process. He has run the numbers to show how this would be a sensible investment from a financial perspective. He has identified owners of empty lots which we can purchase and use for new locations for these historic (in some cases Craftsman) homes. He has spent countless hours negotiating with the city, property owners and developers to try to help us save these homes.
Sadly, our District Superintendent has brought all of this to a screeching halt, because he may have ideas for ways in which SPUMC can spend our principal by partnering with another UMC in Spokane on projects that they have in mind – at some point. Instead of investing in West Central (and continuing to get a return on our investment), we would be invited to spend the principal for projects which these other congregations have in mind. And while these ideas incubate, the window is rapidly closing on the opportunity to save these historic homes and transform them into models for affordable housing projects – making a significant contribution to our neighborhood.
I am saddened by the inability of our United Methodist system to embrace the ministry to which they've been giving lip service for the last two decades. As I deal with my disappointment, I wonder whether there is a future for an institution that cannot appreciate such an opportunity.
While I grieve for the larger institution, I continue to work with, and for, our local incarnation at SPUMC and our sister church, Liberty Park UMC, as we seek to do the ministry to which we have been called. We are not giving up (yet) on this project. Instead, we are looking at alternate ways to move forward in this ministry.
At this point, the leadership team from The Oak Tree is looking for people with individual retirement programs such as IRA, 401K and Keogh, who would be interested in the opportunity to put those funds to work for our community. It is very simply to “roll over” your retirement funds from one of these programs to an investment in The Grove Community West Central Affordable Housing Project. Our attorney, Matt Phillips, can guide you through the process. If you, or someone you know is wanting to join us in this ministry, please let me know within the next couple of days. This is an amazing opportunity to make our ministry relevant, engaged and effective!! Let's not pass it up.
I continue to keep all of us, and our ministry in my heart and my prayers...