("My View" article in Rockford Register Star on June 8, 2014)
I miss Bill Robertson, the former Fire Chief and member of Zion Lutheran Church. He passed away in 2013. Bill was a former Episcopalian that joined Zion. He was a Lutheropalian as one Pastor described someone who was both Lutheran and Episcopalian. Bill encouraged me to become a Police and Fire Chaplain and to be involved in the community. He even gave me a copy of the “Book of Common Prayer” during the three years I knew him. Bill knew people of faith and people of service needed to work together. He bridged relationships in faith and work throughout the community.
Bill was the first person when I came to Rockford in 2010 to talk about the “silo” mentality of organizations and institutions. It is easy for groups of people to just work within their circle and not reach out to others. We usually don’t want to be stretched because we all only have so much time and energy. Yet Bill stretched into retirement by becoming a city alderman, a Zion Church Council member and active member of Zion.
A month before Bill passed away in February 2013, the Zion Partners began a journey when we had a Zion Partners Summit in January of 2013. We had over 30 board members from the four agencies Zion created gathering together. The Zion Partners are made up of Zion Church, Patriots’ Gateway, Zion Development and Zion Outeach. We were stretched to work together more intentionally. We began to meet and continue to meet monthly at Morning Glory on Seventh Street for dialogue and discussion around the common values of faith formation, education, recreation and health, permanent supportive housing, jobs and supportive relationships in the Midtown neighborhoods 61104 region.
This is why we will be gathering on Wednesday June 11th from 10:00-11:30am at Katie’s Cup for a Midtown Summit to hear Paul Logli of the United Way talk about their efforts in the future in the Midtown Neighborhoods of the 61104 zip code. This might be a stretch but now is the time for us to be stretched in recommitting ourselves to our community.
When people think of Midtown they think of just Seventh Street from State Street to about Eighth Avenue. Well, that’s if people know of the Midtown Business District at all. The Midtown Neighborhood Region of 61104 stretches from State Street to Harrison Avenue, from 20th street to the river.
This Midtown Summit will be the first conversation that seeks to build relationships in the Midtown Neighborhoods. It is my hope that those who live, work and serve in the 61104 area that are either residents, business, churches, non-profits, civil servants and community leaders would gather for the sake of transforming our community. I don’t have a plan but I have hope that we can become more intentional and strategic about working together for our midtown neighborhood region. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join us on June 11, 2014 from 10:00am-11:30a at Katie’s Cup or if you want to be added to an email list for future planning.
So here is to Bill Robertson, a community servant and Luteropalian whose silhouette (sounds like silo) can still be seen in the reflection of the many who are seeking to transform the Midtown neighborhoods of 61104!
Peace! Rev. Dr. Michael E. Thomas