The past year has been one of convergence and discovery for Coracle in Baltimore. In Spring 2022, as we were drawing to the close of our first Coracle Fellowship Program cohort in Baltimore, Wanda Bickers (Baltimore Administrator) and I (Community Minister for Baltimore) both felt drawn to take a risk and leave our full-time positions, at Grace Fellowship Church and Cambridge School respectively, to make ourselves available to offer the Fellowship Program again, this time with a Baltimore team of facilitators. Bill Haley (Executive Director of Coracle) beautifully led our 2020-22 cohort through the pandemic and confirmed our sense that God was calling us to step out and trust God for a diverse team of leaders and teachers rooted in Baltimore. God provided so graciously as Dr. Angela Howell, Brad Boucher, and John and Kathy Bruce accepted our invitation to join our teaching team.
We felt drawn to serve those hungry for God and particularly God’s servants who had given so much of themselves to care for their respective constituencies under the added pressure brought on by the pandemic. To our amazement and delight 65 fellows responded to our invitation to begin the 20 month journey of formation together. We began this past fall and will continue through 2024.
Stepping out and making ourselves more available has led both Wanda and myself on an amazing journey of convergence that invited us much deeper into the realm of where spiritual formation and the endemic needs of Baltimore for the shalom and flourishing of Jesus’s kingdom of justice and righteousness meet. Wanda was able to deepen her involvement in Young Lives, walking with teenage mothers in Baltimore. And I began a deeper journey of understanding the city I have lived in for so many years.
For several years the Reverend George Hopkins, a pastor and community leader in Baltimore, has been walking with me, coaching and mentoring me as I have sought to better understand the needs of our city. Growing up in Towson and Lutherville I was insulated from the darker sides of Baltimore’s history and legacy for communities of color. It took moving to Indonesia and then delving deeply into the history of enslavement, Jim Crow, and the legacy of policies like redlining to open my eyes to why Baltimore looks the way it does today.
George encouraged me to join a gathering of urban clergy meeting under the umbrella of BUILD, promising I would be deeply blessed by the depth of their faith and their incarnational love for our city. George was not mistaken. At my first gathering last spring we were led in a deep reflection – flowing from Jeremiah 8:22 and the hymn There is a Balm in Gilead – on where community members had seen God turn places of lament into beacons of hope. I was inspired by the depth of their perseverance, some of them having served in their churches for over four decades.
Through BUILD I was introduced to ReBuild Metro and Turnaround Tuesday, two initiatives led by God’s people to address the hard realities of our city, such as limited job opportunities and multitudes of vacant homes. Through Turnaround Tuesday over 1,500 men and women have moved from incarceration, drug dealing, drug treatment, unemployment and underemployment into recovery and livable wage jobs. ReBuild’s restoration of the communities of Johnston Square, Greenmount West, Broadway East, and Oliver has provided a template for how the City of Baltimore, the State of Maryland, and private investment can seriously address the over 15,000 vacancies in Baltimore.
The BUILD clergy have proven to be just the beginning of our invitation to join ministry leaders across the city in shared intercession and advocacy for all residents of Baltimore. We’ve been welcomed by the Multicultural Prayer Network and New City Baltimore church leaders, as we’ve gathered to join them in coming together to walk with Jesus in bringing flourishing and wholeness to every community in Baltimore. I can’t begin to describe all the amazing men and women that I continue to meet and to be inspired by who truly incarnate Jesus’s life in our city.
By his grace God seems to be positioning Coracle to walk with and serve brothers and sisters in Christ who are, and for a long time have been, helping and serving communities across Baltimore. Through becoming a member of BUILD, expanding our local connections, and offering the fellowship program and contemplative retreats, we begin to envision the shalom we hope to see.
Coracle’s mission – to be the presence of God in the brokenness of the world – is being uniquely incarnated here, as a resource of rest and encouragement for God’s fellow workers in our city and the surrounding region and in loving the people of Baltimore.
Come visit. Better yet, come be a part.