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Cities remain a desirable place to live for many people, despite myriad social and economic challenges that often face urban communities. The educational achievement gap between racial groups can be stubbornly resistant to the interventions used to produce more equitable outcomes. Affordable housing is becoming a rare commodity across the country, as gentrification levies tax increases that often price low-income residents out of the homes they have occupied for decades.

Urban congregations often see these challenges up close. Rising rents and educational disparities impact their members’ quality of life. Indifference is not an option. However, while it is tempting to build a ministry platform on what we oppose, faith communities are called to do more than critique cities. Through innovative leadership and a faithful commitment to incarnational ministry, congregations can renew cities as a way to offer the world a foretaste of God’s kingdom.

That work is profoundly spiritual and reflects the way we see God through Scripture. In Luke 4, Jesus invokes the words of the prophet Isaiah, who said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning…They will be called oaks of righteousness…they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” (Isaiah 61:1, 3b, 4b)

God wants our churches to see where our cities are broken and cultivate renewal through compassionate acts of love and grace. God is at work in our cities today, just as Jesus was at work in the bustling capital of Jerusalem, and just as Paul preached in culturally diverse urban centers like Athens and Corinth. What’s your vision to renew the city you serve?


Before you go…

Renewal is not easy work. Make sure you check out this week’s resources for practical guidance on how congregations respond to the brokenness in their communities.

As you cast a vision for urban ministry, some people will suggest that the church should not be involved in projects like economic development. But practical matters like housing are essential to holistic healing. As we read in Psalm 84:3, “Even the sparrow has found a home…at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”

You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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