Atlanta is a historic city. A city that has been the center piece for major movements in the Civil Rights era, a city considered to have the most African-American wealth in the country, and a city in the top 20 of cities visited by international travelers. Yet it is also a city that has the largest rich and poor divide in the nation. It is a city with a segregated past and at times can be perceived to have an even more segregated future. As gentrification and urban renewal become buzz words in the common vernacular, there are actual lives at stake, entire neighborhoods in the balance.
There our school sits. In English Avenue a neighborhood that was once a white working class community, plagued by white flight and the introduction of crack cocaine and eventually heroin. It is a neighborhood known as the largest open-air heroin market in the Southeastern United States and a place where over 40% of its residents has an annual household income of less than $15,000. Roughly 60% of the neighborhood is made up of vacant, overgrown parcels, or abandoned homes. The last primary school or above in this community closed 20 years ago. It is a neighborhood that neighbors the community where Dr. King chose to live as an adult and Coretta Scott King lived until her passing, both communities bordering the Georgia Dome and the new Mercedes Benz Stadium. Nowhere in the city is the divide more evident or the picture more confusing.
There our school sits. Peace Preparatory Academy is a place that seeks shalom in our neighborhood and city through the education of whole children, support of whole families, and the provision of growth and change opportunities for the whole community. This vision, hinged on our ability to connect with kids and families through exposure to and expression of gospel love is our way of living out the biblical mandate in Micah 6:8, to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” While at the same time balancing the Great Commission of making disciples. Impacting children and families with the gospel, we believe, is the only way to effect real and lasting change in our city and in the world. We do this by living amongst those we serve, participating in communal life together, and using our place of voice and privilege to advocate for those who cannot.
There our school sits, working this out through the three core components of our mission. By investing our lives into the education of whole children we focus on viewing each child as Imago Dei; feeding each child mentally, physically, and spiritually, and empowering children to be the change agents our communities desperately need. We place this same effort in supporting whole families. Whole families that are viewed as Imago Dei; are loved in their place of need and want; are empowered to be the change agents in our community, and have the greatest chance at experiencing the shalom and thriving God has in mind for His creation. Lastly, we believe that whole children and whole families impacted by the Gospel create the conditions needed within a physical place to experience the wholeness and transformation of a whole community. Our commitment to these core components cannot be expressed apart from our commitment to following Christ in going beyond our level of personal comfort and onto the margins to invite those created in God’s image to experience all that He has in store for them.
Atlanta has a unique opportunity to experience growth and economic prosperity that includes the thriving of those once plagued by neighborhoods and communities like ours. As a city we can include those on the margins, as a people we can seek the betterment of all mankind. We could also create that city while pushing those on the margins further out. Our belief is that the gospel compels followers of Christ to be the former as opposed to the latter. We believe the gospel compels us to be concerned for the least and the lost from the perspective of compassion and mercy, but also from the standpoint of justice. If education is a central piece in the civil rights discussion of our time, we have to be concerned as Christ followers for those who have historically been marginalized and excluded from those conversations. A school that bears not just the adjective of being a “Christian” school, but carries the cross of all that entails is what we believe will advance God’s kingdom in the here and now, in this city, in this place.