Updated: Nov 2, 2019
The Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) 2019 “Forward” Conference in Dallas was truly an amazing and mind-blowing learning experience for the Legacy crew! This was just what we needed to reconfirm we are on the right path with pursuing restorative social justice in our community of South-West Springfield. It was also the spark that reignited a passion to keep us moving forward despite the many setbacks and hardships we have faced as individuals and as a community as a whole over this past year.
CCDA emerged out of the context of American Evangelicalism, influenced by the Social Gospel movement, emphasizing that the church must do its part in responding to the macro-economic structures that drive social injustice, in order to heal and reform an unjust society (Eccleston & Perkins, 2018). Arrested and tortured in the 1960’s for organizing the poor community of color in Jackson, Michigan, Black Evangelical pastor John M. Perkins wrote his first best-selling book, Let Justice Roll Down in 1976. Wayne Gordon and John M. Perkins co-founded CCDA in 1989 out of concern with the state of declining urban neighborhoods in the wake of White flight and suburban mega churches, calling on Christians to radically reinvest in locations of poverty by moving to the inner city to disrupt the isolation.
CCDA is based in Chicago, Illinois and is a national network of churches, organizations, and individuals that were originally formed around three key ideas, commonly referred to as The Three Rs: Relocation, Redistribution, and Reconciliation. Over time, the CCDA philosophy expanded to include five more core beliefs: Leadership Development, Listening to the Community, Church-Based, Holistic, and Empowerment. CCDA now has roughly 15,000 members and its primary focus is providing networking and training opportunities through national conferences, regional events, literature, and leadership cohorts (Eccleston & Perkins, 2018).
One of the most important and best takeaways at the National Conference every year is the Go & See. This is an opportunity to go and visit an organization within the city that is embodying the core beliefs of CCDA and putting into action what American Evangelicalism is truly meant to be. Community development and religion go hand in hand, there is no denying that true restorative justice can not happen without the help of Jesus. Jesus is the key to restorative justice. Jesus himself said “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone (Luke 11:42, NIV).” Believers and the church are the vehicles to community development and it is the church’s job to provide restorative justice to the community, not to neglect it. Religion is a meaningful component of community life according to multiple studies, and religious organizations play a major role in supplying social services and community development (Eccleston & Perkins, 2018).
“According to Eccleston & Perkins (2018), “The CCDA is an influential leader in the world of American Evangelical Christian development efforts and advocates for a unique approach to poverty alleviation grounded in proximity and relationships: CCDA encourages all of their practitioners to take residence in the neighborhoods they serve and to remain there for at least 15 years.”
This is a key belief that we strongly believe in at Legacy. In order to serve the community that you are working with, you need to be living life with them, building long-lasting connections and relationships with them, and experiencing the same social injustices that they may be facing. A central theory in community development is social capital which focuses on the way in which bridging (relationships across differences) and bonding (relationships across similarities) connections among individuals and institutions provide stability and capacity for society (Eccleston & Perkins, 2018). Four concepts of social capital that are prominent in community psychology are neighboring (help and support from community members, informal assistance, and sharing of resources and information), sense of community (identity and belonging within a group), empowerment (individuals and groups gain greater control over their lives and environment, acquire values, resources, and basic rights, and achieve important life goals), and citizen participation (engagement with local community voluntary associations to collectively solve shared problems).
Look forward to our next blog which will discuss our “Go & See” at “Cornerstone Baptist Church/Development Corporation” in South Dallas and learn how they have incorporated all of these key concepts into their community that was once labeled “The War Zone.”
Eccleston, S. M. P., & Perkins, D. D. (2018). The role of community psychology in Christian community development. Journal of Community Psychology, 47 (2), 291–310. doi: 10.1002/jcop.22121