Walking the Walk

Pete Hutchison Blog Posts 19 Comments

By: Pete Hutchison, YES Program Director

There are times in life when we are faced with the choice to act on our beliefs or to simply follow the easy path.  Robert Frost wrote about the road not taken, and I find myself thinking about the same thing.

I am confronted daily with the specter of Flint and Genesee County leading the nation in the rate of violence.  At the same time, I recently heard that there are 632 churches in Genesee County.  I’m thinking that that provides us with approximately 63,200 folks who come together as a community every week, who are leading active lives in the county, who can make a difference.


The sad reality is that although we all profess similar fundamental beliefs, we often walk out of our places of worship and fail to practice what we have learned.  It would be good for us to have some leadership in this endeavor.  I have seen small pockets of church leaders join together, but have yet to see a large gathering of our faith leaders coming together.  There have been attempts over the years that have lasted for only a short time, but there has been no sustained effort.  It seems that our religious leaders have yet to come together to show us a model of collective action. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a unified effort to declare a message of peace from every pulpit simultaneously?

For those of us who attend church, we must now walk the walk of our faith. We must realize that as we are leaving the parking lot after our services, that our work is just beginning.  63,000 people can make a huge difference in this community, we can absolutely shape the future and I believe bring safety to our streets.  Once we begin others will gladly join and before we know it the culture of Flint and Genesee County will be one of peace and respect for one another.

Until we all make  a conscious decision to stand up to the  culture of violence in our communities, we are unlikely to see much change.  I also believe that when we  join together and take action we will find that we have gained a sense a well-being that has long been absent from our city and our neighborhoods.

The time has come to travel down the other road, in the words of Robert Frost:

“I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Comments 19

  1. Your comments force me to ask, what can I do? I am meeting wtih Rick Carter, Director of Flint Area Congregations Together (FACT) an organized group of congregations (primarily Christian) that I believe is very committed to being part of creating peace in this area. I will share with him this posting and perhaps he might respond in this thoughtful dialogue. I imagine there are many pockets of efforts that have been sustained over time. As a newly elected co-chair of Genesee County’s Committee for Community Peace (GCCCP), I will certainly take this message to the committee as it begins identifying its action agenda for this year. It may be there is much more we all can do to reach out, spread the word, and join together in confidence that change, although slow, is happening. It’s just not visible enough to persuade the public of its existence.

    1. Elizabeth,
      Thanks for your thoughts and congratulations on your new position with GCCCP, it’s a organization with a proud tradition in Flint and continues to do great work. I look forward to your term at the helm and look forward to working with you in the future.

  2. What a great way to kick off the new year. I think that 2012 is should be a year of change and progress and what better way to make progress than by reaching out to ones community and promoting peace and kindness. I too am a young woman of faith and go to church most Sunday’s, but I also know that I have gone in many times just to fulfill my Catholic duty and I do not always practice what I have just been taught. I don’t think that one needs to be a Christian or spiritual person in order to take away from this post, I think that they just have to care for the sake of their community. And it is true, if one large community sets the example to promote peace and stand up to violence I strongly believe that many other people and communities will too, and this will ensure a better future for ourselves and the children who will be here long after we are gone.

    1. Limary,

      An extremely thoughtful post. I couldn’t agree more with the thought that you don’t need to be a Christian or spiritual person, however I might suggest that there is a certain degree of spirituality or faith or religion involved in promoting peace, even if it goes unacknowledged.


  3. “Practice what you preach” is the slogan I am currently thinking about. When people attend church and leave, I think they either consciously or unconsciously forget they are supposed to be a positive example for the world to see. I am a Christian and I do believe that people need to be a good example. It does not matter if it is in your home, church, place of work. When people attend church, there are lessons that people listen to. Those lessons are supposed to be applied to our daily lives. Personally, it does not matter if you are Catholic, Christian, or non-religious, everyone can make a difference. Over 63,000 people attending different churches can definitely change a community. Just like thousands of people congregate in churches, thousands of people can promote change. People need to make the conscious effort and get the word to their fellow neighbors.

    1. Augusta,

      More good thoughts. I’m a firm believer that one doesn’t have to let go of their beliefs to work with others. Further it seems to me that the basic tenets of most religions revolve around the concepts of peace and love of our fellow humans. By simply living out these two principals, we would have a monumental impact on society.

      Thanks again,

  4. I really liked this blog. I agree with it 100%. I think it is much easier to simply fulfill your religious “duties” as if they are a chore than it is to live by them in your daily life. I am also a Christian and am always surprised at how many of my friends are also “Christian.” It’s actually quite shocking because nothing about their behavior would lead you to think so. I hope that more of these 63,000 people will make the conscious decisions to live their lives as an example and “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk.” With the efforts of everyone coming together, a lot of change is possible.

    1. Taylor,

      I couldn’t agree more. I particularly like your use of “religious duties.” It seems to me that too often that’s exactly how we look at them, forgetting the fact that we must internalize our faith to truly live it.

      Thanks for your thoughts,

  5. Attending a Christian elementary school, I witnessed this action on a daily basis. We had chapel every Monday and every student had to attend. Every now and then the singing of the songs or what message was being delivered in the service brought students to tears. But as soon as chapel was over, it was as if the students completely forgot was was being said. I hope to see more people can come together and promote a drastic change.

  6. Travis,

    I agree forced religion rarely seems to work. I would love people to simply try reaching out, by simply smiling and saying hello to a passerby. I think that once they experience the warm feeling they get when they receive a smile in response, it would no longer be forced, but that they would go to it willingly.

    Thanks for your thoughts,

  7. Talking about religion is one the most controversial topics someone can express his/her feelings about. I must agree that many church leaders proclaim their faith when they are in front of a church however once they turn around the proclaim something else. For instance, someone is nice to you in front of you but once they turn their back they are something else. This example can also be found in our criminal justice field. For example, a police officer continuously gives speeding tickets yet once he/she is out from work he/she speeds. I think that when people are in a high position, they must set an example for others to follow. Often a child decides to have role model. If a child sees that someone is a two-face person, he/she will most likely become like this. Therefore, church leaders, teachers, family members must become aware that others are following their footsteps.

  8. Roxana,

    Really like the way you generalized the blog. You are absolutely correct, there are people in all fields, including criminal justice that are two faced. You also correctly point out the devastating effect that this has particularly on young people who look up to these adults as role models. Some of our other research done on the Neighborhood Violence Prevention Collaborative, showed the adults in young peoples lives were role models, even if the adults didn’t view themselves that way. So, we must all work to be authentic in our daily lives.

    Thanks for your input,

  9. I completely agree with this blog. It is very true that many people claim to be religious and as soon as they leave their place of worship they completely go back to their bad habits. I am also a Christian and have witnessed this many times with friends that claim to be Christians as well. Most of the time is the younger adults that tend to not do any actions to represent their religious beliefs. Many followers also see it as a “duty” to go to church and not by heart. In order to promote peace communities must come together to reduce the violence and crime. The older adults should encourage their young children to attend church to create a better understanding of having respect and also setting high moral standards for themselves. It seems that society right now is lost spiritually, maybe 2012 will be a new awakening for all of us.

    1. Beatriz,

      I like your thoughts on parents on parents encouraging their young children to go to church. Maybe even more I like the role you have established for the church in helping to develop a child’s morality. That may end up not being the same as taught by a particular church, but it gives the child the building blocks necessary to make the decisions they will be forced to make as an adult.

      As always, thanks for your thoughts,

  10. Unfortunately, this problem not only plagues the counties of Flint and Genesee but every community. Some people just do not practice what they preach. There was a point in my life where I would question everyones motive for going to church. I would look around and see that the whole Holy Family Cathedral (Orange, CA) was packed. I thought to myself, that the majority of these people are going to do nothing with what they take from the sermon. If only people were to actually go out and volunteer, do community service and do the community some good, people will make a difference and make a difference in peoples lives and perhaps take stand against violence and other issues plaguing areas of lower socio-economic status.

    1. Cesar,
      Great observation of the Cathedral. I have often thought the same thing while watching another Orange County Cathedral on TV, Chrystal Cathedral. My church in Flint is in the process of trying to become a “missionary” church, with the kind of emphasizes that you describe, but I have to tell you the journey is not an easy one. Seems the key is to get people to not only hear the sermons, but also to internalize them.

      Thanks for your observations and insights,

  11. The article Walking the walk brings up a lot of interesting points. I think that a lot of people take the easy path because they do not know what to believe. For example, the bible says, “help the needy.” A homeless man standing on the corner of the street, are they truly homeless or just too lazy to work? If they are homeless how do we know that the money is going to be used for good, purchase drugs? In community college I learned to help the less fortunate, but not with money. To give them food or clothing because people can not get cash for those items. Small things here and there might not seem like a big change, but when the whole country contributes, it can make an impact. It is interesting to see that on one day a week 63,200 individuals get together in Genesee County. If we were to add everyone in the country the number would be in the millions. I can not think of another place that so many people would gather on a weekly basis. Religion has the power to better the world. Like the article said, “we often walk out of our places of worship and fail to practice what we have learned.” How can church leaders influence people to not fail practice and live by what they have learned? In my opinion I think that the easier road is being taken because of the economy. Not many people are willing to give to the less fortunate because they have the potential to be in their shoes. Saving every dollar in these times is important. People who have lost their jobs and have a family to feed will have to find a way to provide for them, even if that means stealing. I think that religion can create positive outcomes in the world, but under the right circumstances.

    1. Adrian,

      You too have brought up a number of interesting points. The first is one that I encountered often when I was working as the Director of Community Outreach at my church, that being that, “They are just going to use it for drugs or alcohol.” Your solution is the right one in my onion, I think it is a far more generous act to take a homeless person to get something to eat, or help them find a place to stay. But I’m even more impressed by the fact that often time the homeless are just hungry for human interaction, a simple hello or handshake or hug. Which also speaks to another of your points, I would suggest that many of the ways that we may help each other require no money, too often we try to throw money at a problem as a way to avoid having to actually interact with it. Finally, I think the best way for church leaders to influence their congregations is to live out their own sermons. If their congregation sees them acting on their sermons during the week, then they too will live out their faith.

      Thanks for your insights,