“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” — Jeremiah 29:7
A few months ago I was at a church ministry fair sitting at a booth promoting Bus Rapid Transit. One older gentleman came up and said “what does public transportation have to do with God?” I went on to quote a few scriptures about God’s desire to redeem places as well as people and seeking the peace of the city, I pointed out how Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, and how the kingdom coming in my mind was a physical, social and physical force. He seemed disinterested in any explanation. Perhaps his mind was already set about what things are spiritual and apparently, transit is not.
Similarly, in September, I was at a Regional Planning District Commission meeting. It is a quisi-governmental body that coordinates and plans for regional transportation efforts. There another gentleman, a Transportation Planner, thought it was so great that a City Planner like myself came onboard the RVA Rapid Transit staff. He said “last year you had two pastors on staff, their job is to save souls, not get involved in transportation.”
At Richmond Hill we pray for Metropolitan Richmond 21 times a week, in specific ways, for its leadership, people and institutions…we pray for its health. Above the doors of Richmond Hill is the scripture “seek the peace of the city I have sent you.” I do not interpret that to mean just peace as in the absence of conflict, but shalom, things being made right and whole. I see bringing Bus Rapid Transit (A metro system on wheels…sleek, frequent and affordable) as an instrument of shalom. Why? Corridors and streets are what connect us as a region, to one another and our shared resources. Bringing Rapid Transit to Richmond in my mind is a movement toward thriving, promoting regional collaboration and reconciliation and seeking the social, economic and environmental prosperity of the region. That’s good news!
As my boss (who is a pastor) and I attend meetings, give presentations and coordinate Rapid Transit together, I get to see what Pastors and City Planners have in common. At the heart, it’s the love of God, manifesting itself in love for people and wanting to see our city prosper so its people can prosper. Rapid Transit could be a point of connection which leads to reconciliation. Sharing public space like a regional BRT is one way we can engage across jurisdictional boundaries as well as racial, economic and generational lines. Rapid Transit also promotes the common good, improving the health of our communities by connecting residents to jobs, educational institutions, housing and other resources. It can also be a catalyst for visible transformation by way of new development, economic revitalization and the re-design/improvement of roads, infrastructure and buildings. Lastly, it promotes good stewardship of our environmental resources, as riding transit decreases our use of cars which improves air quality and the need for gas. It also decreases traffic so our time can be better spent and accidents which are costly to our health and finances.
Witnessing the response, excitement and possibility that is around Bus Rapid Transit has convinced me that it is actually a movement of the spirit and a sign of coming of the Kingdom. I get to participate in praying and working for the future of Metropolitan Richmond specifically in improving transportation, so we have a safe, reliable and efficient point of connection. That to me seems like Kingdom work to me, a holy calling to help save the soul of our city.