Renewing What Lies Between

Newsletter No. 6

Anne Snyder
Anne Snyder is the editor-in-chief of Comment magazine, a publication of Cardus, and the creator and host of Breaking Ground. From 2016 to 2019 she directed The Philanthropy Roundtable‘s Character Initiative, a program seeking to help foundations and business leaders re-envision the nature and shape of formative institutions needed for social and moral renewal in the United States. Her path-breaking guidebook, The Fabric of Character, was published in 2019. Anne is also a 2020 Emerson Fellow, a Trinity Forum Senior Fellow, and a Fellow at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, a Houston-based think tank that explores how cities can drive opportunity for the bulk of their citizens. She has published widely, and currently lives in Washington, D.C.

What if you heard there was an immediate way to put your life on a different trajectory, and all it would take is a little initiative and a dash of courage?

That’s the promise of Community Renewal International, an organization headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana, whose logic of neighbor caring for neighbor is as old as human flourishing, but somehow, today, almost extinct. They’ve been around for three decades, the missional roots sown in chasms of distrust so habituated it took three nonnegotiable ingredients to overcome the segregated darkness and build a new day: consistency, intentionality, and a systemic strategy to foster webs of neighborly caring, house by house, block by block.

“If we don’t do something to restore those relationships and restore that love from person to person, then America’s going to collapse. We are going to fail,” said Community Renewal’s Sharpel Welch in a deeply refreshing CBS segment last Sunday. “I get the cynical people,” she says, but “I challenge you. Get to know everybody on your street. First name, last name, something about them that you didn’t know before.”

There’s a theme humming beneath the distress of a year strained by our forced narrowing to the virtual and the expressive: Relationships—real, positive, growing relationships—are the necessary alpha and omega of public endeavors that last. Material goods, security, and safety are important ingredients, but what if instead of being baseline to a society’s success, they are the outgrowth of a far more expansive horizon framed by our fundamental relatedness as human beings? What if so much of today’s cultural warfare is going about progress using the same old premises that have failed us before—namely, that the individual is the fundamental unit of value? What if we fought instead to preserve that which lies between individuals?

That between is the focus of this week’s Whole Person Revolution podcast episode, “Race, Relationships, Repentance.” Dwan Dandridge and Chris Lambert live out their call to community in Detroit, Michigan, where their work to build bridges and break down barriers in one of America’s most brutally scarred cities is legendary, even as it’s had its share of mess. We sat down to talk about their respective journeys as friends, bridge-builders, Christians, and community catalysts. I invite you to have a listen.