This summer we welcome our neighbors to come and share about their lives, work, passions, spirituality and inspire us about how we can serve “our neighbors as ourselves,” following what Jesus called the second greatest commandment (Leviticus 19:17-18, Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28). See speakers list below.
Last year, some local advocates for affordable housing got curious about what it’s like to live in public housing in Brookline. They went on a tour and were dismayed, even horrified by what they discovered: crumbling staircases, flaking asbestos, constant vermin infestation, failing appliances, inoperative and leaking windows, miserable energy performance, heating units that stay on all summer and antiquated plumbing. Right here in Brookline!
In Massachusetts, where we see rising housing prices pushing people out of the city, even out of our state, we have some 81,000 public affordable housing units. About 923 in our town. Statewide, most of these units were built in the 1960s or earlier and have not had major improvements since. Some are close to being condemned, needing an estimated $10-12 billion worth of investment.
This past year, United Parish joined the 60+ faith communities of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) to advocate and fight for our lawmakers to do better. On April 13, we held an action in our sanctuary in which we heard some residents tearfully describe what it’s like to live in substandard conditions. Many of our legislators still need their hearts to be “strangely warmed” about what this does to a person’s sense of dignity and self-worth.
One of our fiercest and untiring “inside allies” is Arlene Hill, a feisty, outspoken, warm-hearted Brookline Housing resident, a Dorchester girl who survived an abusive upbringing and found shelter in Brookline’s public housing. She will share with us what she likes about her living situation, what needs fixing and what keeps her going. She will also let us know what it means to be her neighbor and why our stake in this housing fight matters.
I warmly invite you to come hear Arlene’s story as we contemplate what the law and the prophets meant when they said things like:
If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)
Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid. (Micah 4:4)
Summer Worship Series: Who is Our Neighbor?
July 2 — Tommy Vitolo, Massachusetts State Representative, 15th Norfolk
July 9 — Raul Fernandez, former Brookline Selectman
July 16 — Rachel Silverman and Erin Venkatesh, Thrifty Threads
July 23 — United Parish Mental Health Group
July 30 — Reverend Carrington Moore, Executive Director, common cathedral
August 6 — Reverend Erik Hoeke, visiting pastor
August 13 — Raana Mumtaz and Faiza Khan, Brookline Muslim Friends
August 20 — Matthew Kossack, Executive Director, Artbarn Community Theater
August 27 — Aba Taylor, Executive Director, Brookline Community Foundation
September 3 — Arlene Hill, Brookline Housing resident
Image credit: Brookline Housing Authority