#Ferguson take one

Sometimes I don’t know what to say – how to convey the depth, the rage, the grief, the silence, the questions, the solidarity-while-I-know-I-am-still-different-ness. Sometimes I feel like I have to tone it down, or translate, or wait, or lift up other voices, or process thoughtfully, or confess, or something – before I can speak or comment or exhort. If I participate in the conversations I want to challenge, to build up, to advocate, to come alongside the grief, the pain, the anger, the misunderstanding. Between different experiences, different shades of skin, and different assumptions there is delicate ground to dance on; when to encourage, when to challenge, when to listen, when to speak up.

Then I check in with those I know and love, and I lament. There I am heard, and I hear, and then I remember – we need each other. We are all learning. There is no quick easy fix, no explanations that clear up all the pain. There is the struggle, the journey – there is community, and connection – there is growth and reconciling – there is confession, grief – and there is hope.

The reality is that this long darkness of racism, violence, and dehumanizing the other – the fear, ignorance, greed, divided communities and world views – these sins did not arrive as a result of what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, a week ago; these sins did not visit our country or our churches overnight. This struggle, the pain, these divisions – they have been festering and infecting wounds for a long, long, long time.
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The Power of Pentecost

An engaging article by Rhonda Mawhood Lee at Duke’s “Faith and Leadership” can be found here, on the importance of Pentecost in challenging our nationalist, ethnic, and other assumptions. One quote:

“The biblical witness tells me the Spirit sends them: invitations to listen for truths spoken in an unfamiliar accent, to sing a familiar song to a new melody, to hear a Bible story narrated from a perspective I’d rather ignore because it threatens my understanding of the world.

God offers these invitations not because the church is one more diversity program to be tweaked according to the latest census data but because the messianic age has come. The reign of Babel has ended, and Jesus Christ’s followers are called to proclaim that reality.”


CCDA 2010

CCDA just finished its 20th anniversary conference here in Chicago. The Christian Community Development Association holds a big place in my development as a Christian, pastor and ministry practitioner – it is a large part of why I did the graduate and post-grad schooling I did, and why I have done ministry with churches in the way that I’ve done it.

To understand CCDA, you have to know a little about it’s people. CCDA started on Chicago’s south west side with the youth ministry work of Coach Wayne Gordon to high-risk urban kids, along with the prophetic witness and leadership of Dr. John Perkins who was originally from Mendenhall, MS. “J.P.,” as he’s affectionately called (so I learned this week), has recently been honored through academic, theological, Christian, ministry and church venues – and rightly so. For a long time this tireless servant of God worked through racism, oppression, violence and seeing his family literally get killed for being Arrican-American in the south, and did it largely under the radar of the church. Then CCDA was born and thousands of people living and working in under-served neighborhoods around the country started getting together for worship, prayer, workshops and to share ideas with like-minded people called to Christian community development work. Perkins’ original tenents of ministry that shaped the forming CCDA ethos were the three R’s – reconciliation (addressing race), relocation (addressing place), and redistribution (addressing resources and people power). Many other leaders and work has been done that has made CCDA what it is today – but I am thrilled that this man who I’ve been lucky enough to meet and read many books from/hear sermons from, is being honored by so many people in the church. Sometimes do a search on this man and see all the books, dissertations, centers at schools, scholarships, ministry sites, etc. that have been named after him in the last five or so years. It is stunning – and I love it! CCDA today is still all about its people – young and old, from a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds, dressed in graphic t-shirts/business suits/and african garb, men and women, across many denominations and geographic lines – this gathering shows that if you’re crazy enough to take God’s call on your life seriously and He leads you to urban or poverty-stricken America, you will find some great friends along the way.

It was fun to attend this conference as I haven’t been to it in several years – I used to go every year and bring others folks with for work/church related events. So to go again on the 20th anniversary and enjoy so many new and old faces was really amazing. This article highlights all the ECC folks involved at CCDA in some form of leadership – and there were many other attending, helping others attend, and leading in other ways/volunteering/networking events, etc. too. It is always fun for me to see the expected and un-expected folks who are blessed by an urban ministry conference like this – who knew all those types could find something there? I was lucky enough to do a couple workshops with my partner in PhD crime, the Rev. Dr. Felicia Howell LaBoy. I think we learned as much as we shared – from each other, our attendees, and what God did during the workshop time through our gatherings. It was a good reminder of our gifts too – both academic and practical, both personal and communal.

A few speakers/thoughts stuck out to during my few days attending that I dont’ want to forget, so here are my snippets of CCDA wisdom from 2010:

“In West Africa they ask a question – ‘What called you forth?’ In other wods, why were you brought to this earth? You see, they believe that everyone is ‘called forth’ for a particular reason, that everyone has a unique purpose and is meant to fulfill the specific call that God has placed on his/her life. What called YOU forth?” -Brenda Salter-McNeil

“We must remember where we came from, rejoice in the present, and re-imagine the future. Life has a way of knocking you around if you are just ready to be king at a young age and don’t remember what came before you… John Perkins founded this movement on suffering, on being faithful and choosing forgiveness laying in a hospital bed when no one else was looking. And John Perkins founded this movement on Scripture, on a love for the Word…” – Brenda Salter-McNeil

“We have to learn how to speak the language of the people we are trying to get money/resources from; we can’t expect them to understand what we are talking about otherwise. If we don’t, we might be missing out on people that God has put in places of privilege and influence that want to give us favor, that want to give us grants, that want to give us their computers and their resources. There are Christians who love the Lord who I believe God is preparing to serve our churches and our ministries; we need to make it easier on them to help us.” – Felicia Howell LaBoy

“Your people will build up the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” – Isaiah 58:12