Our Historic Ride

admincccckc Articles, Joe Walker

by Rev. Joe Walker, Minister of Congregational Care

McKenna cup 2 July 2016bI was McKenna’s age when the Golden Age of the Kansas City Streetcars coasted to a halt. So, last Saturday’s ride on the new streetcar with her provided an illustrative historic vantage point.

Last Saturday we were delighted to host some much-beloved extended family members, including 1-year-old McKenna, visiting from Wisconsin. We took them to the River Market to shop and play and, of course, we had to ride the new streetcar. I called the earlier streetcar era the “Golden Age” because I am informed by real transit aficionados that Kansas City trailed only Los Angeles in track miles in our heyday. A lot of folks just a little older than I am recall the streetcars as efficient and egalitarian.

Everyone reading this knows that a whole lot of complicated social, economic, and political changes occurred over the last 60 years and those are chronicled elsewhere. To stay with my timeline – and my point – I simply put another pin in my high school years. By that time we knew that there were significant concerns about how urban and suburban planning impacted our neighbors living in poverty, inter-ethnic relationships, our environment, food production, the economy, and international politics. As an idealistic youth I was drawn to groups seeking to engage our communities in those important, complex, and difficult conversations.

With some exceptions, I am still waiting for those conversations. In part, the inability of our neighborhoods to engage in respectful and wisdom-filled dialogue back then helped lead me to the ministry and shape my ecclesiology. I remember in my formative years a professor analyzing John the Baptist’s message observed that “hearts must change before kingdoms can change.”

My brief but historic streetcar ride with young McKenna reminded me afresh of the important role our church plays in nurturing the spiritual maturity that is necessary if we are to successfully address difficult issues and in providing safe spaces for neighbors to gather as we prayerfully discern how best to organize our lives together.