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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Organizing for community transformation takes time. Unfortunately for the churches and people of New Orleans, time for action is not in great supply. A few years ago, many pastors and church leaders in New Orleans had little training in community development. They were not experienced in dealing with governmental institutions and legislation. They had ideas about what would make the neighborhood better, but few of the skills to help them take the steps needed to bring about the changes. Moreover, busy with the important day-to-day tasks of church work, most pastors had not built the kinds of cooperative relationships that would allow them to work together rather than in competition with one another.

Into this setting came Hurricane Katrina. Churches suffered great losses in buildings, evacuated members and pastors, and neighborhoods. As the devastation began to breed ideas about gentrification of neighborhoods, a vision began to take shape through such leaders (I am sorry for those whose names I did not list) Dr. C. T. Vivian, Rev. Dwight Webster, Rev. David Jensen, and many others to create an organization called Churches Supporting Churches. Everyong who heard of the idea thought it was right. But it was slow to develop.

Pastors and congregations were scattered. People had to get jobs, find homes, commute, gut houses, try to rebuild, try to find money. But committed leaders kept building relationships, learning to rely on one another, learning to trust their hopes together, gaining skills to organize, and making the necessary contacts to find funding and training.

Twenty months later, the pieces are falling into place. Relationships have grown. Needed structures are being established. The kind of help that can move things forward is joining in. Lot by lot, block by block, church by church, neighborhood by neighborhood, the evidence of change should soon begin to unfold. And as momentum grows, there will be a flowering of church-based community development in New Orleans that will be good news for the poor, and a new day for churches there.

Among the pastors engaged in organizing and development are Rev. Aldon Cotton of Jerusalem Baptist Church, Rev. Donald BouttĂ© of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Marvin Turner of Mount Ararat Missionary Baptist Church, Revs. Becky and Jeff Conner and Rev. James Haynes of Cornerstone United Methodist Church/Covenant United Methodist Church, and Hartzell United Methodist Church, and Rev. Charles Duplessis of Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church. From Central City to Ninth Ward, churches are pulling together, identifying assets, developing models for action, and doing their parts. Pray for the churches in New Orleans that they may lead with the hope that comes from following the Risen Lord.

If your church wants to join the many congregations across the U. S. and Canada and become a part of this effort by joining in partnership with a church in New Orleans, you can contact the CSC National Project Director Rev. Dwight Webster at cubc89@bellsouth.net. You can learn more about the project at their website www.cscneworleans.org.

1 comment:

Thom said...

Hey man... I got your message, but for some reason not until late. I'm glad your in town... we need you!

I'll call you Tuesday.

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