Almost a year and a half ago, I was having a conversation with one of my pastors. At the time, I was set to soon be part of a church plant in Asheville, North Carolina. As I began to express a certain anxiety about my upcoming move, my pastor presented an interesting question, “Have you ever thought about staying in Louisville?” The honest answer at the time was no. Somehow the thought had never occurred to me that I could settle down here. I had always intended on moving on to some other place to do pastoral work. The questions stuck in my mind, though, and soon several events transpired that made this off-hand question a very serious consideration, including the cancellation of the church plant. After many, many months of reconsidering, suddenly I find myself contemplating what it would look like to settle down and make Louisville my home.
Friday night I took part in one of my favorite free activities in Louisville, the Frankfort Avenue Trolley Hop. A friend and I spent most of the evening riding a trolley to the Mellwood Art Center, an old meat processing plant that has now become 40+ studios and galleries, and then we stopped by one of my favorite local bookstores before capping the evening off with fish n’ chips at the Irish Rover. Louisville is a truly remarkable city. Neither extremely Southern nor extremely Northern, either geographically or culturally, it is a melting pot of so many elements that should not go together. There is an odd religiosity, yet this is meshed with a bohemian creativity and independence. Sure, this is true of many cities, but it comes together in a uniquely stimulating way here and has produced some fantastic fruit.
Louisville is known as one of the must-visit foodie cities in the country, with world-class inventive restaurants like Ramsi’s, international award-winning pizzas like Boombozz, and even amazing grass-fed beef burgers like those at Bluegrass Burgers. Louisville is an amazing city for the arts. Because of the free Frankfort Avenue and downtown trolley hops, galleries along those routes stay open late once a month and have live bands, wine tastings, and other events to attract attention. In Old Louisville, the St. James Art Fair in Central Park creates a wonderland of local arts and artists, while one can see free high-quality productions of Shakespearean plays in the same park all summer long, the oldest Shakespeare in the Park festival in the country. Louisville has produced some amazing musical acts, and nationally-recognized bands such as My Morning Jacket got their start in our thriving indie music scene. Being an aspiring writer and artist in my own right, the creative electricity of Louisville keeps me inspired and brings along muses and collaborators from time to time to keep the magic moving. Finally, of course, all this eclecticism has produced Sojourn, a biblically-committed, gospel-centered church that is truly engaged in its community, promotes the arts, and whose talented songwriters have produced worship music now sung around the globe.
At the end of the day, however, what could most likely keep me in Louisville simply makes the above icing on the cake. The friendships I have formed here (largely, though not exclusively, through Sojourn) have given me more roots in this city than anything else ever could. Saturday night I spent the evening hanging out with close friends. Long after everyone else left and my roommate went to bed, my best friend and I kept rambling on. We were sitting on my balcony still talking away when we suddenly began hearing birds chirp in the trees. We looked at each other in wide-eyed astonishment that we had actually talked all night. The next day, I spent an hour at a coffee shop with two great friends from my community group, followed by a birthday party for a Sojourn friend of many years. There is such a unique bond in my Sojourn family. I call it a family because that is what it feels like. I have experienced no greater human love outside of my immediate family than in the friendships God has blessed me with here. These, above all things, would be difficult to leave.
All this said, I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what possibilities are out there, or whatever else may be in store for me. I don’t know if I’ll be married in five years, whether I will be in vocational ministry, or whether I will be in Louisville. However, I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for this city as of late, and for all the surrogate family God has given me in it. So, have I ever considered what it would look like to stay here? Absolutely.