Thursday, October 18, 2007

CCDA 2007 Show Me Jesus Beyond the Walls

We are newcomers to the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association). I didn’t even know who they were until doing my research in a class on Reconciliation last winter. Since that time, they have been very influential in helping shape the direction of our church planting plans and we continue to be challenged with their vision of community transformation through the local church by the three “r’s” – relocation, redistribution and reconciliation. Attending their 19th annual conference in St. Louis was a great privilege and joy for Josh and me. This conference inspired, moved, and challenged us at every turn. Our mornings began with a “bible study” given by Dr. John Perkins. If that hour of the day was all that we came to St. Louis for, it would have been worth it. I put “bible study” in quotes only because Dr. Perkins is a preacher and his preaching doesn’t resemble anything I’ve experienced under the title of “bible study” before. His passion for CCD, for the plight of impoverished urban black communities, for racial reconciliation and for the very gospel inspired me and challenged me to the core.

The evening plenary sessions were all excellent. They featured speakers of different races, genders and ages who each brought their unique perspectives and experiences. I won’t attempt to summarize all that we heard, but just say that this conference was what we hoped it to be – empowering and inspiring in a profound way. We felt the energy of about 2000 people who share a common mission and who are doing what we are still dreaming of doing. Their hard work and triumph over so many obstacles makes CCD seem possible. Their sheer numbers make us feel a little less lonely and a little less weird for the vision we have.

The conference offered an abundance of options for afternoon workshop sessions on such a variety of topics from the ideological to the practical. For the most part we enjoyed these and gained from them. I had the privilege of hearing Shane Claiborne talk about some of the content of his latest book that is about to be released, “Jesus for President.” I appreciate his thoughtfulness in engaging the issue of politics, empire, and following Jesus. I’m looking forward to reading the new book.

A few thoughts and observations: I am more aware than ever of how little I’ve been challenged on issues of race by virtue of growing up white in mostly white Eugene. Being able to hear the stories of black and latino brothers and sisters has opened my eyes a bit to realities of racism that I have mostly been able to avoid. In Eugene/ Springfield we have a growing Latino community that feels very separate from the white community and nearly invisible at times. But even I have felt the increased tension between the two communities since immigration has become such a hot issue. I’m feeling challenged to reach out and learn from this community.

It’s still very new and refreshing for me to be around evangelical Christians who are all about social justice. When the same preacher talks about the joy of seeing people saved and baptized, and then promotes traditionally “liberal” things like national health care and disapproval of war, it still surprises me. And I love it. I love this wholistic understanding of the gospel that is concerned with bodies and souls, with individuals and communities, with reconciliation with God and with one another.

We will be prayerfully contemplating much of what we heard at this conference for the foreseeable future. The basic tenants of this kind of church are too challenging to be followed outside of a strong and genuine sense of calling. The implications of relocation seem the most daunting, but in the long run I suspect that redistribution and reconciliation are the harder tasks. For such endeavors to be joyful, they must come from true calling and passion. For this we pray that we will clearly hear what God is calling us to do, and that we will have the faith and courage to follow.

1 comment:

super girl said...

Hi, Karlene. I was at CCDA too.. my third time. This time seemed bigger than the past. My husband and I have been reconcilers for many years. Come on over to my new blog to read my 'longish' profile. Relocation (and reconciliation) can be daunting even for a person of color but God is able.