Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development
Wayne Gordon and John M. Perkins (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press)
8 years ago New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani scoffed at Presidential candidate Barack Obama for being a “community organizer”. Which annoyed many clergy because we know the value of community organizers.
You could easily say that helping to develop healthy communities is a vital part of what it means to be the church in the world. It is Scriptural. It is faithful to the Law and the Prophets. It is also what Gordon and Perkins (and their many other contributors) talk about in this book.
The first part of the book is a bit of history about how the authors came into the world of Christian Community Development and the formation of the CCDA in the United States. The last 2/3 are the handbook. The CCDA has 8 principles for Christian community development and each is given a chapter. In each chapter the principle is explicated, both in terms of rationale and in terms of how it is lived out. But then is the best part.
Each chapter includes at least one story (this is wehre the any other contributors come in) relating to the principle [though of course the various principles inter-relate and it is not always easy to only talk about one]. Story, as any of us know well, is a wonderful teaching tool.
The community development discussed in this book is specifically geared to areas such as under-resourced American inner-city areas or possibly some less developed parts of the world. And so it is not a direct line to use the concepts as described in many congregations (to develop them) or other communities. But there is a lot of cross-over and places where one can extrapolate from the descriptions offered here.
To be in church leadership is to be in the business of developing community. A big part of that is developing the community of/within the local congregation. But we are also called to work and pray for the welfare of the communities in which our congregations are set. Sometimes we are better at that than others. But if we are to flourish as communities of faith we have to live it out. The ideas in this book are a help in figuring out how we might do that.