(Editor's Note: This is Father Sandy's editorial running in The Commercial Appeal this weekend. The City Council is considering significant changes to the ordinance that governs how groups register for races and parades after a complaint was filed by a neighbor regarding the church's Book It 5K.)
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” This old saw came true for Church of the Holy Communion on Sept. 16.
Despite our best efforts to hand-deliver notices about our “Book It 5K” race to every house on our route, at least one family did not get the information. We learned about this for the first time in The Commercial Appeal, and have sent a letter to that family expressing our regret.
This neighborhood concern has garnered the attention of City Council, which will consider an ordinance Tuesday to extend the process for scheduling a public event and raise the cost by requiring sponsors of public events to pay the full cost of police protection rather than just the cost of any overtime officers required.
In this divisive time, we need to make it easier to plan community events, not harder. We need more events that draw us out of our homes and into community with our neighbors. The work of the church has always been focused on inviting people into deeper relationship with each other, and that work has never been more important than it is today.
For the past seven years, the Book It 5K race at Church of the Holy Communion has brought together people from the East Memphis neighborhood and from across the city, and it has raised more than $175,000 to promote literacy through two local charities: Emmanuel Center has mentored young people in one of America’s poorest Zip codes, 38126, for more than a quarter century and boasts a 100 percent high school graduation rate over the last 11 years; Books from Birth will send an age-appropriate book to every child in Shelby County every month for their first five years of life.
The Commercial Appeal estimates that Memphis is home to more than 300 races annually, each one supporting meaningful causes in the same way that our race does. Memphis has recently been designated as a “Runner Friendly City” by the Road Runners Club of America, drawing further recognition to this special aspect of what it means to be a Memphian. We need to encourage events like this, not hinder them.
Ironically, the proposed legislation would have raised the cost of the Book It 5K, but not changed much else about it unless an appeal were made and a City Council vote taken. Our permit was filed more than five months in advance, and we have always done our best not only to notify our neighbors, but to invite their participation. We have heard almost no concerns from our neighbors in the past seven years.
The street where I live is closed this morning for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, as it is every year on the first Saturday of December. I had to adjust my usual routine.
To me, this inconvenience is outweighed by the good that St. Jude does for children with cancer, by the impact St. Jude has on our city, and by the wonderful way that the marathon draws our community together. I am thankful today, not upset.
Reverend Sandy Webb is rector of Church of the Holy Communion Episcopal.