With so much of the city’s population moving away over the years and vacant homes removed, many of Detroit’s neighborhoods have turned into urban prairies. As I’ve written in past blog entries, the city’s prairies spread across blocks and blocks of open land, land that once contained homes packed in so close that only a sidewalk divided them.
Also gone are the small specialty stores such as bakeries and butcher shops that served the population of those once vibrant neighborhoods. In some cases, small manufacturing facilities shared the same landscape employing those that once lived nearby.
Riding through many of Detroit’s neighborhoods on my bicycle, I occasionally spot small, simple looking community churches out on the urban prairies where the homes and businesses once stood. They are usually quite old, made of clapboard wood painted white and have a simple contrasting colored cross mounted near the entrance. Most look to be former homes and are located off the beaten path, creating a sense of loneliness to them that I find inviting.
On Sunday mornings and early afternoon the pastoral houses of worship and surrounding streets come alive with church goers. It’s quite a stark contrast to their dormant, lifeless existence during the week when no one is around.
Pedaling by the old weathered structures during those Sunday services, I usually stop and listen to the rhythm and blues flavored gospel music that streams from the open doors and windows. The spiritual music, singing, and chanting coming from within those small unassuming places is a moving and uplifting moment in an otherwise lonesome environment.