Good afternoon. I am the Rev. Brian Merritt. I am the evangelist for Mercy Junction a ministry housed in Renaissance Presbyterian Church. I also preach at Renaissance which is the only church located in College Hill Courts. Today people of faith know Christ is in College Hill and East Lake Courts. Yet, we meet today in a time and a place that is difficult for so many. As we meet at a so called public and a so called hearing by those who are wards of hundreds of Chattanooga’s most vulnerable children and adults we are pressed by the injustice inherent in calling this meeting in this place, this time of day, and this lack of care for maximum participation by those directly effected by words like demolition and vouchers for a nonexistent public housing stock. This hearing is not accessible to a majority of residents whom you claim to represent.
Public statements by employees of the Housing Authority do not match the statements of this board. Last week’s discussion of application for College Hill demolition with HUD, the already 3 year plan to close College Hill/East Lake Courts and the manager who told me privately, and I quote, “everything is for sale.” We need an accounting of the dissonance between your public statements and these opposing public statements.
The Christian and hebrew texts are explicitly clear in their thoughts on the spiritual importance of defending the housing rights of the most poor and vulnerable in our community. Prophets like Micah leave no ambiguity in their condemnation of a powerful elite that would steal homes of the vulnerable for their own gain. Likewise, when a part of society’s elite approached Jesus about following him Jesus replied, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The entire ministry of the Christ which too many of us cavalierly say we identify may not be amongst us at all. We do know with certainty that Christ is present inside College Hill and East Lake Courts day after day. That same Christ accompanied the residents of Harriet Tubman as their lives were turned upside down for the possibility of industry to profit only a few elite in this city.
So, Mercy Junction stands with Jesus in College Hill and East Lake Courts against those whose want expediency, safety, power and crave a greed blinding them to Christ’s misery amongst our neighbors. Nothing less than the extreme political care many in power devoted to the massive budget for our police force will be acceptable for the more important issue of losing our souls when our friends lose a protective roof over their head. True people of faith will accept nothing less than an complete, transparent accounting for the future housing of every single grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, sister, brother or child displaced by this artificially created possible human rights tragedy. We have only begun to follow in the footsteps of Christ. It is nothing less than following in Christ’s footsteps to the least of these that Chattanooga can really claim Renaissance. Christ is in, amongst, with, present and suffering amongst those in College Hill and East Lake Courts today. We intend to stand with Christ no matter the cost because to abandon College Hill and East Lake would mean abandoning Christ. Thank you.