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Real-Life Church in the Lower East Side
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Taylor Field with Jo Kadlecek
A Church Called Graffiti (Nashville:  Broadman and Holman, 2001.  187p.)

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This is a fascinating, touching and informative story about a young pastor from Oklahoma who answered a call to work in Lower East side Manhattan as a missionary to the inner city, and the unusual community and store-front community church he started on New York City's East 7th Street.

Taylor Field relates an honest narrative of his own emotional struggle living in this drug-infested and poverty-stricken neighborhood where much of his ministry involved feeding homeless people, caring for drug addicts and AIDS patients while trying to understand what God was doing and how God's love could be expressed in this dire situation where so many had given up hope.

Field and his young wife took their two small boys into the uncharted realm of abandoned buildings, high rents and hopeless conditions, and came to love the strange, wonderful people who eke out a living there.  All traditional Southern Baptist and other cultural Christians need to see what church on the edge really is like in this story of discovery.  This is church like most have never seen it.

It reminds me a lot of the stories of Jesus in the Gospels, and Taylor reflects often on the life and teachings of Jesus – not the abstract rational constructs of doctrine and “proper” church protocols, but how God's Good News can really be expressed in real-life situations among people whom official religion has bypassed or given up on.

Field has to deal with real life every day, without the luxury of a luxurious office and a church staff.  He was out in the streets with the people.  His congregation mostly slept in the streets and abandoned buildings, on park benches and under bridges.  His Bible studies were not neat homiletical discussions about religious theories, but lively skirmishes between competing topics and voices of chaos in a room of turmoil.

His stories are hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking and often endearing.  He met new challenges every day, impediments legal, personal and economic.  Scared but confident, uncertain but committed, Pastor Taylor Field came to love and identify with the odd assortment of humans that became his flock, formal or informal.  His odd flock had their own idea of how to handle things, which often clashed with Taylor's understanding of the Gospel, and challenged his ability to communicate an alternative way of dealing with things than the values they had learned on the street.

This odd and unlikely collection of individuals gives us insights into how different experiences and situations lead to whole different perspectives on life.  And Pastor Taylor had to handle it all, authentically being the Word of God to those who had never seen it or heard it, teaching literacy while learning to project the message in oral and concrete ways to people who literally lived from day to day.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Living Out the Authentic Story
[review] The Shack: a Realization of Relationship and Revelation

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Reading notes written 29 November 2010
Reviewed on Amazon 2 December 2010
Posted on OJTR 10 December 2010

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2010 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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