Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Purpose: Gods Love as Seen in the Refugee Resettlement Program in Rutland, Vermont

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Purpose: Gods Love as Seen in the Refugee Resettlement Program in Rutland, Vermont

Article excerpt

In the 1982 hymnal there is a hymn titled "Purpose" written by Arthur Campbell Ainger. The hymn speaks of Gods purpose in our world. It concerns mission, and it is very relevant to the story that you are about to read. The first stanza of the hymn states that "God is working his purpose out.... that the earth may be filled with the glory of God." Later, about midway through, it talks of how the work we do and the life we live is Gods work. And finally, it ends with the acknowledgment that nothing that we do-neither our work nor our missions nor any of our ministries-has any worth without Gods blessing and presence. So, what is Gods purpose? What does the glory of God on earth look like? What follows is the story of a small American city whose community illustrates the purpose of God and what the glory of God on Earth could look like.

"God Is Working His Purpose Out"

Rutland, Vermont is a small, rural city with a population of roughly sixteen thousand inhabitants. The town was founded by European immigrants-mostly from Italy, Poland, and Wales-who came to work the granite, marble, and slate quarries, and later the railroad. So the community of Rutland is no stranger to welcoming the stranger. But in this new millennium, "the stranger" took on a whole different connotation. With the coming of these new strangers came drugs, crime, poverty, and fear. The residents of Rutland became distrustful and no longer welcoming. Rutland became known nationally as "the heroin capital of the United States," with articles about the city's struggle with its epidemic appearing in national print media like Rolling Stone magazine and The New York Times. The community became divided, spiraling into economic and social depression. People grew more frustrated with an apparently corrupt police department, social services that did not connect with one another, a state government that seemed to lack any perception of or empathy for what was happening in the city, and a faith community that seemed to be failing them with its ignorance and apathy. Yet, in the very worst conditions that people should ever have to face, there you will find God.

Rutlanders come from hard-working, problem-solving, Godloving stock and would not be defeated by trials and tribulations set before them. Things came to a head in 2012, and the catalyst for change came when a young woman of just seventeen was killed by a driver high from huffing aerosol inhalants. The residents of that neighborhood, which had become notorious for being the hub of drug activity brought in by strangers, had finally had enough. They reached out to other neighborhoods experiencing similar crises. The good people of Rutland demanded a cleansing of the police department and the hiring of a new chief of police. They called for neighborhood and community meetings to discuss the myriad problems facing them. They chose to work together on solving problems. No more would they sit around in expectation of someone else coming to the rescue: they would rescue themselves!

Out of these gatherings came Project Vision. Project Vision is a partnership of law enforcement, medical and social services, and business owners and community members intent upon building a brighter, better, safer community. Today, Project Vision has become a beacon of hope to many other towns and cities in Vermont and across the country. Community meetings are held every month with a core group who always attend, and many others who come as they can. At these meetings, if you listen and watch with a mindful heart, you will see clearly see the presence of God as relationships are built, nurtured, and strengthened. At any given meeting, you can find medical professionals collaborating with social services to ensure that a person in need is provided the services that they require. You will see law enforcement agents working with landlords and business owners to empower changes in the infrastructure. You will find NGOs working with the faith community to provide support for work being undertaken throughout the city. …

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