Archive for the ‘urban ministry’ Category

Play along with me. If you had one million dollars to spend to help stimulate the economy, what would you do? What would I do?

Option 1:  Give the money to a billionaire, in the blind hope that the billionaire will pass along that million to his employees in some form. Or that he’ll spend it on a nice luxury product that (hopefully) will be an American product. Or that he won’t exercise the many loopholes that still exist and he’ll give that whole amount back to the U.S. government to spend. And of course, pray that the money won’t go into an offshore investment account somewhere in the Caribbean or Switzerland.

But what would Jesus do? What investments would Jesus make that I would want to make as well?

Option 2:

I’d like to invest a small part of that one million to provide food stamps for a struggling family. I’d want the nine year old in that family to have access to a healthy meal that could mean the difference between performing well in school and dropping out of school. Along the same lines, I’d want to invest a small part of that one million to make sure that my local school has free breakfast and free lunch for families in need. A student that has breakfast in the morning will outperform the student that goes hungry. A small investment for the future. Probably won’t pay off with rising housing prices before a President’s four year term is up.

I’d like to invest a small part of that one million in one of my students and give him a Pell Grant or a Federally subsidized student loan so that he can continue to pastor his inner city church while getting an education that will strengthen his ministry. As his ministry grows in impact, he will continue to raise more leaders from his inner city youth group. Those young leaders will impact the future of that inner city neighborhood. It is a long bet. But I know that my student’s long-term impact on his community can be strengthened with a solid education.

I’m even willing to invest a small part of that one million in a “foreign” investment. I would like to make sure that food and medical supplies are sent to places throughout the world that encounter catastrophic disasters. But not just investing in disaster, I’d like to invest in community development efforts that bring fresh water, sanitation, and hygiene. In the long run, this investment might prove to be a more shrewd investment than increasing the number of ships in our navy. If it came down to it, it would seem like an easy choice: a destroyer or food/medicine.

I’d like to invest a small part of that one million to make sure that my 80-year-old mother continues to get her prescription medication benefit. This investment is not for the future. But given all that she has done to secure my future, I can’t imagine denying her this small return on her immense contribution.

So my investment strategy is a diverse portfolio rather than betting it all on one fat cat. I would love to believe that the one million dollar investment in the billionaire’s benevolence would result in a deep and wide dispersion of that investment into many sectors of the American economy. But I am also a student of history and know where that story has taken us before.

The myth of trickle down economics is that a rising tide lifts all boats.  That’s true for those with luxury yachts and even sailboats. But the poorest of our communities and the very least of our brothers and sisters drown without safety nets. And I seem to remember my Bible telling me that whatever I’ve done to the very least of my brothers and sisters, I’ve done to Christ.

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North Park University to Host ‘Justice Summit and Chicago Reload’ March 23-24

North Park Justice Summit and Chicago Reload image

Cornel West, Jim Wallis highlight prominent speaker lineup

CHICAGO (February 2, 2012) – North Park University, Chicago, will host hundreds of people next month at an event for those who want to know more about justice as a way of life. Participants in the “North Park Justice Summit and Chicago Reload,” event will learn how to engage in ministries of compassion and mercy, confront policies through advocacy and community organizing, and partner with programs and projects of community-based organizations, all from a Christian perspective.

The Justice Summit and Chicago Reload is March 23-24. It combines Chicago Reload, an annual event for urban youth workers hosted by the University the past seven years, with a new Justice Summit to expand the audience and dig deeper into the subject of justice, including focus on systemic issues and policies. Event organizers are hoping at least 500 or more people will attend.

Prominent plenary speakers highlight the event, and are expected to address justice, compassion and mercy from varied perspectives and contexts. They are Dr. Cornel West, Princeton (N.J.) University; Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners, Washington; Rev. Harvey Carey, senior pastor, Citadel of Faith Covenant Church, Detroit; Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, North Park Theological Seminary; and Rev. Judy Peterson, campus pastor, North Park University.

“The whole idea is to gather folks around the issue of justice, and start the dialogue in a direction we think is holistic,” said Tony Zamblé, director, North Park University Ministries. “This idea gained traction because we believe North Park is uniquely positioned as an institution to lead the conversation on justice.” Justice Summit and Chicago Reload presenters will address the theological framework for justice ministry so participants understand what God calls them to do, and why, Zamblé said.

Justice issues are a significant component of youth ministry regardless of the context, said Alison Burkhardt, assistant director, Center for Youth Ministry Studies, North Park University. “There is a real electricity around Chicago Reload, and I believe it’s going to translate into the full conference. I’m hoping attendees will leave knowing that what they do makes a difference, having perhaps a different perspective on the impact they have on the communities they’re working with,” she said. Conference planners hope attendees gain “foundations and tools” for doing ministry that can be applied in multiple contexts, Burkhardt added.

Attendees will be able to choose from a significant number of workshops organized into four tracks, said Rich Kohng, urban outreach coordinator, North Park University Ministries. Workshop categories include “Presence,” “Policy,” “Programs,” and “Perceptions,” he said. Some workshops are already planned, and others will be added in the coming weeks. Kohng said he hopes attendees will become “contemplative activists,” combining their relationships with Jesus Christ and activism as important components of the gospel.

Conference registration is open online; early registration rates are available through Feb. 29. Regular registration begins March 1 and closes online March 21. For those who sign up, conference email updates are also available.

Justice Summit and Chicago Reload sponsors are three University entities: University Ministries, Campus Theme Committee, and the Center for Youth Ministry Studies. North Park University is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church.

North Park Theological Seminary Announces Urban Ministry Certificate

Certificate in Urban Ministry

Applications for first cohort accepted through March 31

CHICAGO (February 10, 2012) – North Park Theological Seminary is accepting applications for a new, two-year graduate educational program leading to a Certificate in Urban Ministry. The 15-credit certificate program is intended for Christian ministers and lay leaders who want to learn more about engaging in effective ministry in urban settings.

The Seminary is part of North Park University, a higher education institution with a Christian, multicultural, and urban identity. Those core values, combined with the cultural and Christian diversity represented in Chicago, position the Seminary to offer a rich educational experience to students, said Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, program director. Rah is Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism for the Seminary, and a former urban pastor himself.

“Chicago is part of the classroom we’re offering,” he said in an interview. “Being in Chicago is a tremendous advantage. It is a center for community development, community organizing, for ethnic diversity, and with diverse neighborhoods.”

Offering a certificate program in urban ministry is part of a larger trend of urbanization and the growing influences of urban culture, Rah said. Both the University and Seminary are affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), which is planting new congregations in urban areas, Rah said. Urban pastors and urban lay workers could benefit greatly from the certificate program, Rah said. “We hope it will strengthen and undergird their urban ministry,” he said. The program can also introduce people to urban ministry who want to learn more.

The urban environment is complex, constantly changing, and always challenging, Rah said. The certificate program will emphasize deeper theological and spiritual engagement, as well as practical ideas for enhancing urban ministry. “We do this ministry as followers of Jesus. Anytime we can deepen the theology, it is a good thing. Also important are spiritual formation and discipleship. All of these serve to strengthen our work in the city,” he said.

Students who complete the program will earn 15 credit hours in just over two years. Plans call for the first cohort to meet Aug. 13–17 in Chicago, followed by online coursework beginning in October. The cohort will meet in Chicago for another week in August 2013, followed by online coursework. A final week-long gathering in Chicago is planned for August 2014. Rah said an ideal size for the urban ministry cohort is about 15 to 20 people.

“There is great enthusiasm in this Seminary and in this denomination for this certificate program,” said Rah. “It represents a wonderful convergence of what North Park University is all about, and what the Evangelical Covenant Church is excited about.”

Applications and supporting materials must be submitted to North Park Theological Seminary by March 31, said E. Kirsten Burdick, director of Seminary admissions. All applications will be considered at the same time in April, she said.

See the website for more details: 4days4justice web link

Four days of exploring the theme of Social Justice from an Evangelical Christian perspective.  North Park University is sponsoring a series of lectures, discussions, and workshops that will explore the theme of an evangelical social ethic for the 21st century.

The schedule:

DAY 1: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

7:00-8:30pm      in Hamming Hall (Campus Justice Lecture Series)

“The Non-profit Industrial Complex” with Andrea Smith from UC Riverside

DAY 2: Thursday, April 15, 2010

9:00am-Noon      in  Isaacson Chapel (Nyvall Lectures)

“Jesus, Justice and Race” (Peter Heltzel) and “Justice and Gender” (Mimi Haddad)

1:00pm-5:00pm:      Fishbowl Discussion in Olsson Lounge (Nyvall Hall)

TOPIC: An Evangelical Social Ethic for the 21st Century

PARTICIPANTS: Noel Castellanos, Jake Diliberto, Mimi Haddad, Carl Ellis, Jr., Jimmy McGee, Mae Cannon, Peter Cha, Jonathan Merritt, Andrea Smith, Lisa Sharon Harper, Peter Heltzel, Terry LeBlanc, Soong-Chan Rah, Richard Twiss, Sandra VanOpstal

7:00-8:30pm: Campus Justice Series Lecture in Hamming Hall

TOPIC: Environmental Justice (Terry LeBlanc and Lisa Sharon Harper)

DAY 3:  Friday, April 16, 2010

9:00am-NOON: Fishbowl Discussion in Olsson Lounge (Nyvall Hall)

TOPIC: An Evangelical Social Ethic for the 21st Century (cont.)

DAY 4 – (Saturday, April 17, 2010)

9:00am-1:00pm: Justice Workshops in Hamming Hall (Registration Required) – Click HERE to register

9:00 am – Plenary Session: a panel discussion on the topic: What does an evangelical social ethic of justice in the 21st century look like?” with Soong-Chan Rah, Richard Twiss, Mae Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper

10:00 am – Workshop I

11:30 am – Workshop II

Workshop topics include: Contextualized Theology / From Compassion to Justice / Environmental Justice / Christians and Just War / Immigration Justice / A Theology of Justice / Justice and Race

Workshop presenters include: Richard Twiss, Terry LeBlanc, Soong-Chan Rah, Mae Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Carl Ellis and others.

Be a part of this great gathering of many committed to an evangelical, biblical social justice. REGISTER today.

My good friend, Rev. Dr. Alex Gee is the Senior Pastor of Fountain of Life Church in Madison, WI (Dane County).  Alex and I met when we both were plenary speakers at Urbana ’03.  Pastor of a dynamic multi-ethnic church, Alex brings a pastor’s heart and a prophetic voice.

Dane County is an amazing community for African American babies to be born into.  It is a horrible community in which to live if you are an adult African American male.  As an African American who is both a male and a father, I find this stark contrast appalling.

Recently, I was at a Healthy Births Outcome event. We gathered that morning to discuss the fact that Dane County has the absolute best African American infant survival rate in the entire country. In fact, we are the only community in the nation where white and African American infants have the same survival rate.  As the father of child who was a one-pound, eight-ounce baby who was born sixteen weeks too early, I am grateful to live in Madison, Wisconsin.  So the news is good for African American babies. It is not so good for African American adults.

A colleague just showed me a report that states that in Dane County, fifty percent of ALL young African American men are either in prison, on probation or parole, or on extended supervision. That’s one half of ALL our young African American men. What are the implications for African American families? What does this mean for African American women? What does this mean for African American economics? This is scary and this is wrong! Wisconsin needs to be challenged in the way in which our prison system does business.

For example, nearly fifty percent of Wisconsin’s prison population is African American. This is appalling when one considers that African Americans make up only five percent of the state’s population. If you are male and African American in Wisconsin you are thirty times more likely be arrested of drug offenses that your white counterparts.  Our Gov. Jim Doyle and County Executive Kathleen Falk each established a task force to review the racial disparity in the Wisconsin and Dane County criminal justice systems. We need more than startling statistics. We need answers as to how this could happen in our state and we need to find solutions.

Unfortunately, racial profiling contributes to Wisconsin’s bleak reputations for treating its African American males more severely. Sadly, I know that from firsthand experience.  as I was recently pulled over by two Madison police cars in the parking lot of Fountain of Life Church, a well established multiethnic congregation where I am the founding senior pastor. I had not violated a single traffic rule, yet I was asked to show identification and to explain what I was doing there. My white staff member who was parked in the same lot and sitting in his car when I arrived was not asked a single question.  Is this some cruel joke? Is this really happening in my comfortable backyard while I snooze? African American males are not genetically inferior to our white counterparts nor are we predisposed to failure and criminal activity.  So, what is wrong with our corrections systems and why have so many of us just ignored this huge problem?

As a male African American Madisonian, I want to issue a call beyond the various task forces that now exist. I want to invite the entire community to become concerned and involved.  I want to encourage African American pastors to make their voices and concerns known.  I want to invite white clergy to address issues of racial disparity and discrimination from their pulpits.  I want the Urban League and NAACP to keep our political leaders’ feet to the fire for finding doable solutions for eradicating this awful disparity.

How can we celebrate healthy African American babies and not give a damn about their fathers and brothers and uncles?

Dane County leads the way for healthy African American babies; let’s do the same for African American males.

Over the summer, both our cars were stolen from right in front of our house. First our Scion xB was stolen. Great little car. Gets great mileage. It was stolen on the first day of my summer intensive class and I ended up getting to my own class very late. We ended up finding the car parked a few blocks away from our home. Since we had already filed a police report, I had to wait by my car for the police to come and release my own car back to me.

If you have ever had a car stolen or your home burglarized, you are familiar with the sinking feeling you get when you realize that something has been stolen. It is not merely the sense of losing property, but more the deep sense of being violated. Someone has invaded your personal space and property. We were, however, very thankful that we got our car back without any major damage to our Scion.

So I went and got Clubs for both our cars, changed the locks on our house and added an alarm system for the house (ridiculously overpriced for what you’re getting and they don’t fulfill their incentive offer. Never trust ADT, but that’s another blog entry). The need for the home security came from my wife’s bike being stolen from our backyard about a week after the car was stolen. The second year in a row we have had a bike stolen in Chicago on Father’s Day.

About a week and a half later, I’m at a conference in California when my wife texts me that our minivan has been stolen. Again, our car was directly in front of our house. I rush home (paying exorbitant fees to change my flight by one lousy day). The car was recovered with some minor interior damage. So now, our family is on edge. We have had two cars stolen as well as a bike – our sense of security was shattered. We became a bit more suspicious of our neighbors and began to discuss what it meant for us to live in an urban context. Other questions came up as well. Why do we pay such high taxes and get ridiculously inferior public education? Why is there only one beat cop for an area covering about one square mile? We began to cast suspicious glances at the youth in our neighborhood. We were facing the reality of life in the city.

A few weeks later, I found myself in an inner city church on the West Side of Chicago. This was really da hood. Not the urban oasis that my family lives in. Sure, we live in the city, but despite the rash of thefts we still live in a fairly safe part of the city. The church had just wrapped up their worship time and opened up the floor for prayer requests from the congregation. I seriously considered asking prayer for my family as we were worried about having our two cars and a bike stolen from our house.

The first person to share was a fortyish woman who asked prayers for the children of her community as they returned to school. She talked about how this past year, in her neighborhood, they had seen a high number of youth who had been shot and killed. Another parent stood up and asked prayers for his neighbor who had lost a teenage son to a shooting during the summer. Person after person stood up to ask prayers for family members lost to violence and testified to violence that occurred right in front of their home. This is real life in the city. There is nothing romantic or exotic about it. It’s just real life. In my self-absorbed concern over an inconvenience, I forgot that there is genuine pain and suffering in the real life of the city.  I join with the prayers of many families and individuals who seek the peace of the city.

To learn more about efforts to bring peace to our city, see: Chicago Peace Campaign