Most of the churches in the Copper Corridor are getting smaller and older. It’s tough to have few or no children, and no new adults coming in. Good Shepherd Church in Kearny is no exception. But Pastor Michael Eaton, almost as an aside, said this past Sunday, “Look around us. We have many empty seats. Just think how much room we have to be more welcoming!”
It’s the familiar question of water in the glass: half full or half empty? Do we complain about not enough water or fill the glass?
Rural Arizona towns (especially mining towns) are similar to the churches. The towns are getting smaller, older and poorer. We are discouraged often and lament our situation. We retreat into our memories of the way things used to be. When we get this kind of mindset we give up our capability to look around ourselves and see the possibilities which might be available to us.
Let me recount something I did last February. With some other people from the Copper Corridor, I went to the Great Canadian Picnic at South Mountain Park in Phoenix. Have you heard of it? It was new to me. It’s a gathering of snow bird Canadians who meet their friends and trade information on things to do in Arizona.
I went prepared to invite Canadians to try Kearny for winter living. I had 1,000 brochures touting Kearny and distributed 800 of them. I talked up our weather, the beauty, the outdoor life, and our businesses and health facilities. And I learned something. Canadian snow birds are tired of shuffleboard, golf, and expensive restaurants. They don’t like the smog and the traffic.
What they are seeking is warmth, beauty, and opportunities for outdoor life. Many of them are hikers and were pleased to find out about the Arizona Trail. Others like four-wheeling, but they’re tired of pulling their trailers a long distance through traffic to get to off-road sites. Some like to fish; others like to hunt; others like long walks in the peace and quiet.
That describes our area, doesn’t it? We have all that and more. But the Canadians, for the most part, are unaware of this part of the world. We need to fill this glass with publicity and our willing welcome.
Another real possibility, partly realized, is the fact that we are a Gateway Community for the new Arizona Trail. Hiking season is already with us. The businesses in Kearny are working to be attentive to the needs of hikers. There are “trail angels” in town who will respond at any time to drive to the Kelvin Bridge and bring hikers into town and back out again the next day. The IGA has a special trail needs section. Old Time Pizza even delivers pizza out to the trail head! Most of the hikers enjoy staying at the General Kearny Inn. Our bars and restaurants are starting to welcome these people (who seem to be either older persons or younger persons with few middle-agers).
The presence of our winter residents is extremely valuable to us. They come to our churches; they support our school sports programs; they pick up their mail and shop in the stores just like the rest of us. And now many of them are our long-term friends. Let’s not take them for granted.
Now that the Copper Corridor communities have fewer people, we have more room. Let’s see what it takes to welcome new people into our towns.