Tuesday, 22 February 2011

‘To Live in Peace’ – part 3 – ‘Dynamics of Community Rebuilding’

OK, third instalment now, and possibly the last, summarising what Gornik outlines as “some basic dynamics that guide community development”…

One: Neighbourhoods Require Care and Stewardship

(Roberta Brandes Gratz) “Cities do not deteriorate overnight and, similarly, are not reborn overnight. Quick-fix responses at best camouflage problems and at worst exacerbate them. Cities respond most durably in the hands of many participants accomplishing gradually smaller bites, making small changes and big differences at the same time.” (149)

‘urban husbandry’… “Instead of replacing things… strengthening what is there, allowing an incremental pace and an organic process to emerge from the bottom up, not the top down… celebrat[ing] those efforts that are small and more community-grounded and honest.”

“A well-defined concrete geography or focus area… enables those involved to set measurable goals and objectives and establish a clear, holistic vision. Just as importantly, a focus area limits the options that can be attempted. It sets the agenda, which means that the unrealistic goal of trying to do ‘everything everywhere’ is eliminated.”

“the relationship of the church to the community is best described by the word covenant. A covenant is a free commitment that says, in effect, ‘Whatever happens, no matter what, we as the church will stay and deal with it.’ This means that the church takes a vow of stability, that it is committed to being a church of the community.”

“the importance of small-scale projects and micro-narrative approaches” (150)

Two: Rebuilding Moves Between Lament and Celebration

“Just as the urban cry of Lamentations precedes the rebuilding of Jerusalem in Nehemiah, so tears and shared pain must precede the joys of rebuilding in the inner city. … Just as reading the laments of Scripture can enable us to ‘read’ the laments of the inner city, so the laments of the inner city can inform our reading of Scripture… The urban laments of our day can be seen and heard everywhere…”

“rebuilding can be considered ‘embodied worship’… Celebration is crucial to fulfill the aims of community redevelopment, for it sustains and keeps in focus the end of community rebuilding, which is the glory of God.”(151)

Three: Change Percolates from the Bottom Up

“The community’s impetus for change, its interests, its language, and its sense of pace must lead. Drawing on a community’s journey of survival, courage, self-care, and even anger is a starting point… For the church, this means passionately loving the community in all its beauty and hurting with it in its brokenness, as well as trusting in the genius and ideas of the community and drawing on its spirituality and depth of commitment, recognizing the community as people created in God’s image. For the church, believing in the community also involves a Pentecostal belief in the gifts and capacities of the people of the community. All members of the community – not just a few ‘leaders’ – have an important contribution to make to the rebuilding effort. Every person has gifts, and every gift is a grace for the common good…” (151-2)

“as history shows, women’s experience and leadership are especially important… The Christian story also reminds us of the leadership role of children and young people… God’s chosen way of redeeming the world – working not from the top down but from the bottom up, through Christ – unleashes power from the ‘edges’ of society through women, children, and the poor. Here is where we must look for the lived stories and theologies for the urban future, giving testimony to the way of salvation…” (152)

(John P. Kretzmann & John McKnight) “four main assets can be identified in any neighborhood: (1) the capacities and gifts of local residents, (2) the power of local associations and organisations, (3) the potential of local public institutions, and (4) the diverse streams of local economic activity, including the neighborhood’s land and other physical assets. Community change, they argue, really can begin from the inside and move out… Moreover, focusing on what God is doing in the community rather than maintaining a consuming focus on ‘needs’ aids in the prevention of burnout, personal and communal.” (153)

“authentic community transformation will not only engage wider economic and political issues but will also provide opportunities for the rich and powerful to be involved and spiritually challenged” (153-4)

“the community must not be reduced to one ‘stakeholder’ among  many, but must instead be the subject of its future” (154)

Four: Community Organizing is the Basis of Empowerment

“By mobilizing people to unite around what they value and hold most important, community organizing creates the space for the people of the community to define their issues, address shared concerns, confront the principalities and powers, hold public institutions accountable, determine their own future, and create their own institutions.” (154)

“Community organizing is a discipline that is learned – it demands skills that include dialogue, listening, deliberation, and negotiation… Organizing is about learning and applying what is learned. And then its task is the celebration of success. Thus the continual dynamic is reflection – action – celebration.” (154-5)

(Robert Linthicum) “Empowerment… takes place when the people of a community name the hostile forces that are harming them, decide what strategy and steps to take to challenge them, and then organize action that brings about change. A process of continual reflection and action is essential, because it yields new ideas and insights… The analysis of harmful forces must include social, political, economic and religious realities. Such analysis… yields not only physical and material alterations abut also an affirmation of human dignity and the seeds of spiritual renewal in the community. Upon this basis, church and community are able to form the creative and critical partnerships necessary to attain a more just and whole neighborhood.” (155-6)

Five: Community Development is a Vision of Justice and Joy

“Driven by a vision of community rightly ordered, a vision rooted in the biblical concept of Jubilee, Christ-centered community development is particularly committed to the most vulnerable. With a Jubilee perspective, community development offers not charity, relief, or advocacy but the resources for people to achieve healthy families and sustainable community. This vision emphasizes responsibility, accents assents (economic, physical, social, and spiritual), precludes displacement, and does not measure results apart from people. The Jubilee is a vision of justice and joy unmatched in contemporary community development theory and practice.” (156-7)

The End Result: The Composition of a New Story

“Community development is a storied activity, and the best community developers are storytellers and narrative theologians. Thus it is crucial that the church begins with and holds in great respect a community’s stories, both individual and collective. Hearing these stories is a process of discovery that ultimately can lead to forming a new and shared story. One of the primary roles of the church is to draw attention to the larger story of God’s presence, salvation, and new creation. In this story, a community moves not just in a different direction but also towards God’s future of reconciliation, justice, and joy in the city. Because of grace, Christians know that the human story is always open to new endings. However, a new direction for a community does not result in the removal of the fetters that constrict the community. A new community story does not always erase the subjecting forces of oppression but finds a way through the maze of oppression to begin to establish a new vision and reality of what is possible. Most importantly, the story of the community belongs to the community and is not imposed from outside.”

“This story, which is about communal transformation, cannot be ‘written’ overnight. ‘When we talk about community transformation,’ Robert Linthicum observes, ‘we are talking about a conversion process in an entire community. It is most often not a sudden conversion. It is a slow, driving process causing an entire community to change their way of understanding themselves.” (158)

“To bear testimony in public settings – to vocalize in word and song how lives, families, and communities have been healed – and to interpret these testimonies as stories of divine power express the encounter with the Spirit. … It is when community members hear each other testify to the changes in community life that God’s work can be discerned.” (158-9)

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