PLT Contributor Mark Gornik recently reflected on his friendship with fellow co-worker in ministry and community organizer Allan Tibbels in his newest article “Jeremiah is for the ‘Birds’ — Remembering a friendship and ministry” on Duke Divinity’s Faith & Leadership.
Mark and Allan were among the founders of New Song Community Church the neighborhood of Sandtown in Baltimore, Maryland in the late 1980s. Allan is especially remembered for his work with Habitat for Humanity in the Sandtown, where over 300 abandoned homes were revitalized and its residents were made their homeowners. Mark writes…
In the 1980s, America was in the midst of an era of great urban abandonment and division, but Christ was calling Allan, Susan and me, shaping our imaginations, to see the world in a different way. As I finished college and then attended seminary, Allan and I regularly reflected together on our commitment to join in God’s work in Baltimore, to live our lives on behalf of a “beloved community” in and for our home city.
In 1986, called to live in the community and start a church, Allan, Susan, their daughters, Jennifer and Jessica, and I moved to Sandtown, a neighborhood in West Baltimore. After a few years, we joined with others to start New Song Community Church(link is external), which in turn launched a series of community-based institutions that over the course of nearly 30 years has made a very real impact on the social and economic life of the neighborhood.
Across the decades, the friendship Allan and I shared was a gift of hope and sustaining joy for the practice of ministry. Nearly every day, we spoke in person or by phone, even after I moved to New York to start a sister church in Harlem. We talked about everything from sports to politics, from music and our families to our day-to-day work in the communities and institutions we served. But at their heart, our conversations were always about supporting one another, encouraging each other to keep reaching for the calling to which we had been called, whatever the vulnerabilities, obstacles and shortcomings we faced.
To read the entire article, click here.
For a short video depicting Allan’s work in Sandtown Baltimore with Habitat for Humanity, click here.
In 2010, The New York Times featured Allan in their “The Lives They Lived” annual collection of narratives that celebrate lives. To see and read about Allan among the other twenty-two persons chosen, click here.