As I wrote last week, a proposal involving a huge downtown development project ($110 dollars, seven-towers, eleven city blocks) was published in a local paper. The map showed our church building surrounded on all four sides by their enclosed mall. No one from the library or community had spoken to us about it before it was published.
The counsel we had received from eminent domain legal specialists in our first go around was that when threats are proposed to not let a day go by without speaking to it. To that end, I wrote a letter to the editor (basically the material from the blog of last week) that was published in the Tribune on December 13th. A reporter had contacted me the day before so there was also a front-page article entitled "Church on the defensive" in the paper which you can read here: http://www.kokomotribune.com/local/local_story_346231202.html.
Yesterday I was on the phone quite a bit, as one library board member and then the board president called in response. Both conversations were cordial, and they both assured me that the firm making the proposal had indicated, despite what the map showed, that it would not involve taking the church. They both also identified with pressures they feel as citizens regarding the property tax burden mentioned in the letter. I am very thankful for their quick response and reassurance.
They also both expressed that they wished that I had spoken to them privately before going to the paper. Perhaps I should have. Yet had they followed that same principle and notified us before the article, I may not have written at all. For when information is spread publicly in this manner, what option do we really have than to chose the same method of communication they did?
We are hopeful yet will remain guarded, as other civic leaders beyond the library board are now involved in these decisions and, in communities across the nation, private property and churches are being taken for "the good of the public." Need evidence? Read this article about the Supreme Court docket or look here to see all the cases or see this 60 Minutes report to read about the latest. As one eminent domain lawyer quoted in the last link states, "This is a nationwide epidemic. We have documented more than 10,000 instances of government taking property from one person to give it to another in just the last five years." (emphasis added)
One final thing we all definitely agreed on. Both board members also requested prayer, as the turmoil in our city government in Kokomo, especially seen in the response to the library situation, has been difficult for them personally. Indeed, the board member has already written a letter to the church that was sent to me that day, which he concluded this way,
"I certainly understand your concern and, as I stated earlier, please rest assured that I will work to make sure your church is not threatened.
From one Christian brother to another I would ask that you, as well as your church, pray for me as well as all the others involved in the project that we would have the wisdom to make the best decision for our community. As the Psalmist says in the first part of Psalms 127:1 'Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.'"
We are praying for them to have wisdom and that the Lord's hand would be clearly seen in this matter. We are "seeking the welfare of the city and praying to the Lord on its behalf" (Jeremiah 29:7). As Psalm 127:1 above verse goes on to say, "Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain."
"Guard our city, O Lord Jesus."