Our Perkins Fellows and residents of the Perkins House, attended the Christian Community Development Association conference in Chicago, thanks to the generosity of the Forum of Theological Exploration (FTE) and Lilly Endowment.
Perkins House resident and Perkins Fellow Dominique DeBose reflects:
“The Perkins House went to the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference in Chicago at the beginning of the month. I started the conference attending a session that talked about worship in a cultural context — worship as counter-cultural, as cross-cultural — led by Mark Charles. In this session, he spoke about the concept of time being a social and cultural construct and how those particular constructs within a society can affect and mostly restrict how we do worship and therefore put a time limit on how we allow the Holy Spirit to move. In reference to indigenous tribes, particularly the Maori of New Zealand, he gave his experience of how he witnessed their ceremonial dance, the haka, used in times of war, also used as an act of worship. And he noted, in the context of worship, but I also think it applies more generally that, “assimilation is not a Biblical value.” It is the role of the worship leaders to embrace the discomfort of diversity.
When understanding Christian community development, a major motif that I got from the conference was “comfortability,” or more accurately, not being comfortable. In keeping our eye on the end goal of reconciliation and creation of the beloved community, we, as Christians, are not called to comfortability and safety. Understanding this takes a different mindset. Pastah J said that “community development begins in the mind” and that with that miraculous change in mindset, “Christians have the [unique] ability to affirm the dignity in everyone.” We had the honor and opportunity to meet with John Perkins himself and other Perkins House members and Fellows from Calvin College. I remember Perkins saying that “we have lived for so long in a country based on race and class that we have lost our ability to affirm people’s dignity.”
I think that in understanding what it is to be a Christian, what makes it uncomfortable is the very same thing that makes it so radical and counter-cultural. How do we as Christians affirm peoples’ dignity? How do we create inclusive culture-affirming worship within the church? How do we enter and uplift a community without harming it with self-righteous white and westernized theologies? How are we able to live alongside those we claim to love and fight against their injustices?
The conference, for me, brought about these questions and more. It re-opened my eyes to what the daunting process of reconciliation looks like. In considering community development and reconciliation, I get pretty discouraged, I feel out of place, I feel uncomfortable. “How” do you it? I don’t know all the politics, theologies, and practicalities. It’s hard, and it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also as simple as affirming someone else’s dignity. But when I think of the why, it’s not that complicated; it’s simply spreading the love we have rooted from Christ to our neighbors.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
From Perkins House resident, Sarah Bland, UVa ‘20.
“For me, CCDA 2018 was a time of intense spiritual formation and discernment in a season of navigating relationships and vocational calling…with space for necessary and beautiful dialogues around myriad manifestations of God's roaring heart for justice in communities. We will continue to press into all of this as a house, recognizing that it's in the most uncomfortable places that we stand to grow the most.”
Learn more about the Perkins House at www.perkinshousecville.org and CCDA at www.ccda.org