Lent, Honesty, Mental Health and Freedom

“Holy God, our lives are laid open before you: rescue us from the chaos of sin and through the death of your Son bring us healing and make us whole in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
—Common Worship, the Church of England

“Did you ever look inside yourself and see what you are not?”
—Flannery O’Connor

As this year’s Lenten season draws to a close, I have been struck by the way time and awareness and health are intersecting this year. A good friend of mine has a degree in psychology and counseling, and she was telling me that mental health is really about self-awareness – seeing who we truly are and being able to hold the good and the bad, the dark and the light, the best and the worst all together in one piece without lying to ourselves about who we really are. This holding together of the diverse parts of the self is what psychologists term ‘coherance’ – my friend is especially good at helping people talk through their own lives, look at their own stories, and come to places of deeper coherance where they can hold the whole story together, in one piece – finding better mental health.
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Thankful for CCDA Today

Tonight the annual CCDA Conference at this year’s location in Indianapolis. I almost was able to attend/teach there this year, but couldn’t work out the details. While talking with friends about this event, I was reminded of how great this gathering is for connecting and being rejuvenated with folks that are “like you,” if you’re a practitioner, a pastor in the city, an activist, a dreamer, a thinker, or a person who just wants to see the church live out its whole mandate in terms of building community and being the hands and feet of Christ.

If you are somehow able to go a this last minute, they accept on-site registration and have day pass options as well; or just learn more about CCDA at www.ccda.org. (And there is a brief history of this organization in this post, if you’re interested.)

My good friend, colleague and master workshop-leader Rev.Dr. Felicia LaBoy and I co-led two seminars last year at CCDA’s conference here in Chicago. The first one was packed out and was recorded; it was titled, “Being Mary in a Martha Kind of World.” It was all about how to abide and do ministry, even urban/pastoral/life-consuming kinds of ministry, out of God’s strength and not our own. We had a great time preparing this material and being there together – I am remembering the gift that it was to teach that with her and to recall the wisdom that God was showing us during that process as well. We also led a second workshop on-site at Uptown Baptist Church on Wilson about for-profit and non-profit ways to connect CCD ministries, with a much smaller crowd (which wasn’t taped.)

And, here are some of my favorite quotes from last year’s CCDA Conference that I am feeling especially thankful for today:

“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

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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

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