If I were to ask you to name a handful of United States cities roughly synonymous with the word flourishing, Phoenix probably wouldn’t be at the top of your list. It’s really hot, after all, with a lot of sand. Points of interest tend to be really spread out. Between numerous unremarkable buildings you’ll find a great deal of concrete. People who move here tend to move on fairly quickly. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
So it’s particularly audacious of us to talk about – much less work for – “the flourishing of our city.” But that’s precisely what we aim to do, in some small way, through Common Good PHX.
A word about that audacity: my generation wants to change the world, including a desire to revitalize our cities. One of our glaring problems, however, is that we live nearly entirely lost in the moment, with a fuzzy vision of our hoped-for future, and almost no concern whatsoever for the past.
If we want to understand the city in which we live, and if we want to help chart a better course forward, we need to understand what got us to where we are today. Jon Talton – aka “Rogue Columnist” – has written a fascinating three-part series called “Phoenix 101: What killed downtown.” It’s a grim title, I know, but the series serves as an important history lesson.
Part one begins with the founding of the township in 1870 and chronicles the city’s development up to 1940. Part two takes us through the ‘40s to the early ‘70s. And the series concludes by bringing us up to date.
“When you see downtown Phoenix today,” Talton advises, “Be kind. No other major city suffered the combination of bad luck, poor timing, lack of planning, vision and moneyed stewards, as well as outright civic vandalism.”
You’ll have to read the whole series to see what he means by that, but that quote paints a vivid picture in itself. While times and circumstances may change, Phoenix as we know it in 2013 is built on the foundation laid for us in generations past, for better and for worse.
At Common Good PHX, to be held at Christ Church Anglican on April 12-13, Andy Crouch will lead us through the story of culture, the work of culture, and the hope of culture, stirring our imaginations to consider how we can serve the common good of Phoenix through our vocations. We’ll grapple honestly with some of our city’s pressing challenges, but we’ll also celebrate the ways in which Christians from all walks of life are making “common-good decisions” in their daily lives.
The story of our city continues to unfold. As Talton puts it, “Bad fortune, worse policy, poor timing, civic vandalism and indifference did their best to kill [downtown Phoenix]. They failed.”
In other words, “the flourishing of our city” isn’t out of the question just yet. We hope you’ll join us for Common Good PHX as we consider what we can cultivate and create so that Phoenix might one day be known as a city that flourishes.