The cover of today's Tribune sports a great article on the changing nature of Oakland. Oakland's Wine Scene is Ripening. The article points to what many of us are expereincing directly or through heresay. At a recent gathering someone asked me if I thought that the Dimond District was gentrifying, and then wondered what was being done to ensure that all of the Dimond residents were still made welcome in their neighborhood.
The article talks about the changes of and in Oakland through the example of several newly opened wine bars. The first paragraph says it all, "IF SPROUTING condominium complexes and the construction of upscale supermarkets haven't convinced you of the revival under way in neighborhoods around Oakland's Lake Merritt, consider the handful of trendy wine bars coming to the area. "
I guess I'm one of the transplants, happy with Oakland and also happy with the new Farmer Joe's, La Farine, Peet's, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Bakesale Betty and Cesar. But the changes aren't just about shopping, eating, and wine-drinking. It's also a lot about culture. How is the new emerging, or post-modern, or bobo-ish culture effecting the larger multiculturality of Oakland? In my own community I see some of the tensions eeking out. I never would have thought 6 years ago (when I came to Oakland) that there would be a Yoga Studio, Candle Shop and Designer Women's Clothing Store on the same block that the church I serve as pastor is located, along with about 2 corner liquor stores. Are we really responding to the transformations happening all around us on so many levels, or are we merely reacting to them? Does a renaissance in what has often been called gritty urban Oakland, the working-class Dimond/Laurel neighborhoods, or even Fruitvale Presbyterian Church have to come at the expense or loss of those that have long been here? Or is there a win-win way forward?
When it comes to the Christian Church today, (I seem to bring everything back to this) I think the reason we're shrinking in numbers is that as a community we're not able to manage this major change of worldview, nor to integrate this transformation of communication and relationships, nor to articulate what it means to follow Jesus in the language that our world and culture speaks. It's not just a matter of "repackaging" things to jazz them up. It's not a question of method over message. It's about understanding and claiming what is essential to and for us as followers of Jesus and then articulating that in a coherent and connectional way to a culture more interested in experience, participation and community than in a 3 point sermon, a easy to memorize tract, or an easy-to-sing hymn.
In talking with a wise friend today about this article we asked each other if we see the tension of the emerging Oakland vs. the existing Oakland and our city-wide transformation in and throughout Oakland. I do and I don't. How about you? Do you see it? If so, where?