by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, March 9, 2017

Last night we convened the first session of our speakers series, where we learned about our city from the perspective of our neighbors. Mayor Robert Reichert and President Bill Underwood of Mercer University, each shared their perspectives of life in Macon now, and in the future.

Macon native, Robert Reichert, now serves in his second term as Mayor of the consolidated Macon-Bibb County government. Mayor Reichert’s tenure has focused on growing Macon-Bibb County into the transportation, logistics, and cultural hub of the Middle Georgia region.

Since his appointment at Mercer’s 18th president, Dr. Underwood has led Mercer during a period of growth and development. Enrollment has increased in recent years, setting a high water mark for the institution’s largest and best-credentialed entering class. Mercer’s commitment to building community beyond the boundaries of campus is clear. Mercer has strengthened its emphasis on service-learning and community engagement. One need only look to the College Hill Corridor initiative, which is revitalizing a two-mile area between Mercer’s Macon campus and downtown, to find an HHBC on Facebook example of the university seeking the peace of the city.

As our Vision 20/20 team presents the perspective of our neighbors, you will hear more about what is happening in our community and may even be inspired to remember the dreams you have for our church in this city. Mayor Reichert challenged the membership of Highland Hills to accept and adapt to the diversity of the next generation, known as the Millennial Generation. Our congregation needs to reach out in ways as least as serious and proactive as the city planners do. Shirley Hills and North Highland are expected to grow over next several years because of our proximity to downtown. A congregation like Highland Hills possesses a unique opportunity, based on our location, to partner with our two neighborhoods to address education, access, and beautification.

This kind of tradition honoring innovation is at the heart of my own dreams for our church.

President Underwood echoed many of the expected demographic changes on the horizon for Macon, noting that the single most important factor in having a successful university is attracting the next generation of talented young people and overcoming the challenges we face. We can bemoan the present state of education, poverty, and race in Macon, or we can be a part of the story of Macon’s renewal. For that, President Underwood called for a pervasive positive outlook. His can-do attitude began to spread to those gathered in the Great Room last night.

Before my evening ended, I had two phone calls and three emails of church members dreaming of ways our church might be involved in the renewal of our neighborhoods.

This is what this season is about. Highland Hills, we really do have dreams to remember for our church.

Next week we will hear from representatives of Historic Macon, NewTown Macon, and the Urban Development Authority.

You won’t want to miss it.