Window. The living room is the place where the entire family gathers. The view from this window is less idealized than the view than from the bedrooms. The steel bars on the windows represent the barriers the ministry still has to overcome and also suggest that urban life involves many real threats. There is some need to be security conscious.
Urban ministers are vulnerable, but accepting the danger is necessary to gain the trust of the community. These barred windows are deliberately open to indicate that there must be a balance between taking precautions and being open to the community. In spite of the danger inherent in urban work, and in urban communities, the work still has to be done. We have to have confidence that there is goodness in the city (illustrated by the other church across the street). as well as danger.
The smokestacks outside are without smoke. Urban ministries are often located in depressed areas, with high unemployment and a high percentage of transient populations (the homeless, migrants, etc.). The deteriorating conditions outside also symbolize that the structures themselves are vulnerable, to bad weather, earthquakes etc. The ministry has to be always ready for emergency relief in case of natural disaster.
The living room is not generally the first point of contact with the community, but community people should have some access to it. An urban minister's family will inevitably become part of the ministry.. However it is important to protect the sense of autonomy and privacy that the family provides. The family cannot be sacrificed. In the living room, the presence of both the personal and church families is illustrated through presence of the pictures on the entertainment center.
Urban ministry is concerned with the material well being of the people, not just with saving their souls. The wording of the prayer indicates that the community needs God's help in empowering itself. It has to act in partnership with God, not just wait for God's help.
Entertainment Center. The TV commentator, making a victim-bashing speech, represents the difference between inner-city reality and the media version of urban life which tends to support middle class interests and ways of life. This is true in all countries, especially with the export of U.S.-programming around the globe. However, video technology as represented by the VCR, can also be used as a effective ministry tool. The VCR also symbolizes individual choise: while one has no control over TV programs, one determines what one plays on the VCR.
Mirror. The mirror gives a sense both of what is and what should be. There is a definite link between the reality observed through the window and the reflection in the mirror, because the successful ministry has to work from the outside reality, which determines the type of work to be done. The urban minister reflected in the mirror sorrows with the suffering people seen through the window, symbolized by the weeping Christ behind the reflection. (In contrast, the people on the TV screen are seemingly unconnected the world's pain.) At the same time , the reflection smiles, because the ministry also relates to and empathizes with the joy, happiness, goodness that exists in the world. The hammer symbolizes the toughness, resilience, and taste for action that urban ministry must exhibit in order to survive. The anvil shows urban ministry is heavy, demanding high intensity work. The hope of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, is what sustains the ministry. God's promised city is also the antithesis of the vision through the window.
Bookshelf. The whole family uses the living room bookshelves. In the living room the children have a safe place to play with their games and toys, and playthings are also a way to gather the family together. The urban minister is interested in the world at large (the globe and the National Geographics) and especially in the church around the world (Asia Report). There is also empty space for more objects to be brought The water pitcher is a sign of hospitality like the the biblical practice of foot washing. Welcoming the stranger into the family. is essential if we are to minister with integrity
Skylight. How does God connect with us in the center of our lives?
Like Jacob's ladder, reaching from heaven to earth, the God who is above all things is also incarnate in our living rooms.
Rest and prayerful reflection are depicted by people in armchairs and children at play: Rest is a key element in an urban minister's life; it is too easy to burn out. The concept of "resting in God" reminds us that the connection with God does not cease when one is "chilling out". Forgetting to rest affects one as a minister, but it can also affect the whole community as well if, for example, the minister becomes sick or gives up. The need to rest also shows the community that the minister is an ordinary person. The presence of children denotes wholeness, completeness, holiness. Every single aspect of life is important in urban ministry. We minister to the person as whole, knowing that one dysfunctional aspect in our own personalities affects all the others.
The plant and light symbolize God's role in the process of growth and transformation. God stimulates much-needed growth in the urban family. The plant represents creation, connection with life, growth and the cycle of nature. The plant suggests life to those who live surrounded by concrete. We rest, knowing that while we do the planting God brings the growth. There is no image of the ideal family reflected in the skylight. We need to be careful to embrace the diversity of urban family life without judging those who are not part of a traditional two-parent family.