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The Journal Gazette

  • Swartz

Friday, July 06, 2018 1:00 am

Day of service promotes understanding in Auburn

Dan Swartz

To take part What: Community day of service Where: Rieke Park, Auburn When: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday

In a world of what seems like increasing political and socio-economic division, it sometimes feels easier to bury one's head in the sand (aka social media) than take palpable action. But this isn't how communities are meant to act, is it?

My favorite definition of “community” is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” This more universal definition is one we often use at Wunderkammer Company when figuring out our programming, and it is a constant reminder that we need to understand others and their goals and interests if we are going to be an effective organization.

Our intention, and the need for community in general, became clear recently when a church in the neighboring city of Auburn used its sign and itself as a symbol of division with the message: “LGBTQ is a Hate Crime against God, Repent.” Religious belief and hermeneutics aside, this was shocking to most, and this situation quickly began cultivating negative feelings from many people of all backgrounds.

Predictably, those entrenched in the battles for LGBTQ advocacy and those who oppose them dug in deep, quickly began calling in reinforcements, crafting arguments for and against, and preparing for the worst. The church and its leader feigned ignorance of grandstanding and vanity, and the advocates' plans for protest began to break down into biases against local authorities and internal division. This is how community falls apart.

While all of this is happening, many were forgetting about Auburn, the backdrop of this story, which has a history with communal disturbances, more recently with the arson that significantly damaged the Eckhart Public Library just over a year ago. We knew there had to be another answer.

Luckily, that answer quickly came in the form of First United Methodist Church of Auburn, and its leaders, the Revs. Jim Farrer and Grant Merrell. They presented the opportunity to respond to all those involved in a meaningful way with a community project designed to pull everyone in the community together and further support those “common attitudes, interests, and goals.” By partnering with another local church, we were able to learn a great deal about the community of Auburn and have begun making many new contacts in the area. We hope these new relationships will return future dividends as we find additional projects to work on with the community.

The project itself is simple: From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday we are pulling together the region's LGBTQ+ community and its allies for a day of community service. In this iteration, it will take place in Rieke Park, and we'll partner with the Auburn Parks and Recreation Department. So please join us to show the church and the Auburn community as a whole that the LGBTQ+ community is just made up of people, many of whom are equally concerned with the future of our community, both locally and abroad.

Dan Swartz is founder of Wunderkammer Company and Design Week Fort Wayne.