A friend of the Center, Baron Miller, just returned from a week-long seminar on Christian community development held in Chicago under the auspices of Northwest Graduate School. The seminar featured fellows like Glen Kehrein, Wayne Gordon and the inestimable Ray Bakke. The participants were given a guided tour of the city, with discussions exploring a variety of issues related to Christian urban ministry and community care.<p>Baron, quite naturally, returned from his excursion thoroughly fired up. By the time he had finished telling me about his experiences and the work that's being done, I was too. Quite frankly, we were both encouraged by the activity and creativity of urban ministries in America today. It's one thing to read about a church like Lawndale Community Church and the revitalization it has brought to a working class area of Chicago, and another thing entirely to sit and talk with the founder of that community about the kind of challenges and opportunities that present themselves to Christians involved in community care.
The public expression of community life inspired out of a Christian view of human relationships is an altogether uncertain affair at times. It requires a deep trust in the One by whom and for whom, and in whose image, all human beings are made. It's our Trinitarian encounter with God and the belief that we are created in the image of this communitarian Being that uniquely qualifies Christians for the task of standing in the breach and repairing the frayed fabric of civic bonds. Our involvement in community development is not a distraction from but rather an expression of our prayer for peaceful lives. (For those of a Calvinist persuasion, we might say that there is a kind of common grace that flows out of the special grace extended to God's daughters and sons; as they live out lives altered by the indwelling Spirit, they emanate a penumbra of peace, stability and sheer livability in their communities that benefits "the just and the unjust alike".) The need for community renewal is a perennial challenge that ought to call forth faithful, optimistic, creative service from Christians, rather than the more typical despair and abandonment on the one hand or neglect and capitulation on the other.