Saturday, June 18, 2011


With a few days to kill before my flight to Greece I took off on my own for Philadelphia. The subway and trains were crowded as can be but in less than two hours I had traveled out of New York, through New Jersey, and finally to Philadelphia. I saw the Liberty bell and all the other historical sights, grabbed a Philly Cheesteak, and headed to The Simple Way. The Simply Way is a small group of believers in Kensington, one of the worst poverty and crime stricken neighborhoods in Philadelphia, who are dedicated to living out a simple gospel message through thier daily lives as residents in the neighborhood. Started by Shane Claiborn, author of Irresistible Revolution, a book I would recommend to any believer of God who is worn out with the church routine.

When I showed up to the address I had written down I expected to see a sign out front identifying it as The Simple Way, but there wasn't. Confused for a few minutes, I finally knocked, and was releaved to find I had made it to the right place. A guy named Aaryn walked me down the neighborhood a quarter mile to the hospitality house that I would be staying in. It too had no sign, but was a house just like all the others. Aaryn was the video guy, probably in his mid twenties, with a shaved head and a long beard, and like me, had come to The Simple Way about six month ago after he had read Shane's book. He gave me a quick rundown of the house and my room and the neighborhood, gave me a key, and told me where I could help with food distribution later on and then took off.

i later did go down the street to another house they owned to help distribute food, which took all of about twenty minutes. Here I met Shane but I didn't really get a chance to talk to him. I was just glad to see him there, as an activist and speaker he is away often, traveling all over the country. I talked with a lady from the neighborhood for about ten minutes about her history in Kensington, which was the longest conversation of the day. I san in on a Crime Watch Committee meeting, made up of Shane and his staff and about 15 of the neighborhood moms, where I heard just enough about the crime going on in the neighborhood to be spooked out, and afterward headed to my place for the rest of the night. I was hoping to see other visitors to the hospitality house, people to talk to, but it was still just me.

Shorty after arriving to Kensington I learned that the neighborhood does not know Shane and his friends as The Simple Way, they simply know them by thier names. The Simple Way is not just another institution hoping for change at a distance, but is a network of friends in close relationship slowly changing the neighborhood they live in.

At the end of the day I was hoping for more interaction with Shane and the staff and more involvement with the neighborhood. Alone at the hospitality house, it is hard to know how to interact with people on my own in such a new, dangerous, environment.

Are they just all really busy? Am I just another short-term visitor? Am I expecting too much attention? These were questions that I asked myself on that first night, questions that made me feel a little uncomfertiable, and could only be answered by another day living in Kensington.

First US Bank

Liberty Bell

Independence Hall

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