Why We Love the City
York City is our home. Our family came to central PA in 2004 by way of Raleigh, North Carolina. I arrived here eager to serve as an assistant pastor at Providence Presbyterian Church, a suburban church in Manchester Township.
During our first two years in York we rented a ranch house in the Shiloh neighborhood in West York. Those two years afforded us the opportunity to learn more about York’s culture and history.
We were quickly drawn to York City as we considered where to purchase a home. The historic homes full of character, the multi-cultural neighborhoods, the excitement of city revitalization, and the sense of community life our friends Chuck and Nancy Snyder described were all influential in our decision to move to the City.
It was in the summer of 2006 that we moved to the historic Avenues neighborhood. My wife Gail had just given birth to our fourth child and we jumped right in to the task of renovating an old, two-story brick house that was full of character and potential.
In 2009 we helped start City Church, which has since become a family for many City dwellers. The church launched with the goal of being a church for the Gospel and the City and our family gladly threw our passion and energy into the exciting prospect of living and worshipping in the City.
Six years have passed since our move into the City. The home renovations are near complete. Our family will soon welcome its sixth child, three of whom have been born in the City.
We discovered that York City has been a great place to raise a family. Every caring parent desires to give their children exposure to opportunities to grow into healthy, balanced, contributing adult members of society and the City has been abundant with those opportunities.
Our kids are surrounded by a diverse group of friends. Their birthday parties, sports teams and classrooms give them exposure to different ethnic groups, belief systems, and economic realities. Living in a diverse City is their normal experience.
We regularly frequent the downtown area to visit Central Market, to enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants or for a Saturday walk along the historic, tree-lined, downtown streets. Revs games, parades, block parties with new friends are icing on the cake.
Friends and neighbors are usually out grooming their yards or relaxing on their porches as we walk the Avenues. Many a day has ended with an evening cookout or late night smores with friends. Our family has tasted what it means to be a part of a community.
After six years of living in the City we can honestly say that we love living in the City.
I am a firm believer that loving a place does not mean being naïve about its problems. We would be naïve to ignore the many challenges the City faces. I would be lying to say that there have not been times when I have been concerned about my family’s safety. On several occasions I have made my share of calls to the police to report criminal activity.
Our City faces real problems. A high percentage of City residents struggle with poverty with little likelihood they will emerge from it anytime soon. Single moms are giving to birth to kids whose fathers have abandoned their parental responsibility. The normal in some City blocks is drug trade, prostitution, violence and fear.
The school district faces an annual funding challenge and the poorest children in York County are annually faced with the probability of cuts to more programs and services. Far too many properties are blighted and in need of redevelopment. Property values are sagging and property taxes continue to escalate.
There are times that I have held out hope that the County might pull together to share resources that would improve the lives of our most destitute. At other times I have been close to abandoning the hope that City and County could partner together. Still, I am convinced that generosity is no stranger to York County.
Our family will continue to pray and work for the revitalization and prosperity of the City. A City where opportunity abounds for educated professionals only is unacceptable. Opportunity must flourish for all people regardless of class, race or any other factor. Imagine an integrated City where professionals and dwellers regularly mingle together with their County neighbors as one community.
I am absolutely convinced that York City is a place that God loves. God once rebuked the Old Testament prophet Jonah for his lack of concern for his neighboring city of Nineveh. “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” God retorted to Jonah. Should God not also be concerned about the 44,000 residents of York City?
If God loves this City how can my family not also love this City? Our love for this City is not based solely on what we consume here but more so on the opportunity to serve and love the same people that God loves.
Our decision to live in the City has been shaped by the incarnation of Jesus. The Son of God became flesh. He refused to sit back, gaze at our messy human predicament, shake his head and walk away in disgust. Instead Jesus became one of us, entered our world by way of a poor family to enjoy rich relationships with hurting and oppressed people. He offered his life to ransom us from hopelessness and despair. God loves York City with all its brokenness and potential.
We choose to live in the City because God loves it and we do too. We have no messianic delusions of becoming saviors of the City. Our limitations are all too obvious. We do cling though to the high calling of being good neighbors, solid contributors to the common good and a gentle witness of the love of God in this City we call home.