Category Archives: Community Development

Calling Everyday People

Toylee Green-Harris Peacemaking Insight

Toylee Green-Harris, recruiter extraordinaire for the Masters of Arts in Social Justice and Community Development, invites you to be one of the everyday people gathering at the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry to help change the way individuals, our nation and our world think about violence.

Learn more about how your individual ministry as well as the larger church ministry and community can come together around some practical skills to transform the way we think about the epidemic of violence.


Faith and Racism in Chicago

Hallett Lecture Father Michael Pfleger and Robert McClory

February may still seem like quite a ways away but, remembering how quickly the holiday season flies by, we want to make sure that this great event got onto everyone’s calendar.  Especially if you are locating in the Chicagoland area, you will not want to miss this reflection upon the role of faith in combating racism.

The 2011 Stanley J. Hallett lecture will look at the life of Father Michael Pfleger through the eyes of award winning journalist Robert McClory and his new book “Radical Disciple”.  The title of the lecture is “Faith and Racism in Chicago: the Fight for Social Justice” and it will take place at Loyola University on February 3, 2011.  Both McClory and Father Pfleger will be present and offer perspectives on how the church community can change the face of the city.

Robert McClory and Father Michael PflegerAs we continue preparations for the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry (of which Father Pfleger is Co-chair along with Rev. James A. Forbes) we here at SCUPE are pleased to see people of faith reexamining the church’s role in addressing major societal issues like racism.  For too long the church has ignored its calling to name, confront, and resist the evils that do not reside primarily in the individual but within systems, cultures, and institutions.  While the majority of the church has become highly attuned to addressing sin and salvation on an individual level we have relegated this calling to wrestle with Powers and Principalities to small groups at the fringes of the church who engage in an increasingly isolating struggle.

It is people such as this that the Congress on Urban Ministry has served.  The Congress is a crucial gathering for leaders, students, and churches who are responding to a call to serve the forgotten parts of the city, to speak Gospel with a spirit which we have stifled, and to dismantle persistent societal ills like racism, poverty, xenophobia, and violence.

Our 2011 theme, Peacemaking in a Culture of Violence,  reminds us that to be disciples of Jesus, the one whom we claim as the Prince of Peace, is to be actively engaged in the struggle for peace for all peoples.

We look forward to this Hallett lecture as it will certainly help us to wrestle with the meaning of this Christian vocation to peacemaking.

February 3, 2011 Hallett Lecture


MA in Social Justice and Community Development

Community Leader at Lake And PulaskiSCUPE’s newest degree program is designed for those aspiring to affect faith-based, social transformation in communities as well as to those committed to restoring economic equity, social justice, and ecological health, especially with regard to underserved, marginalized, or exploited populations.

The degree is the MASJCD, which stands for the Masters of Arts in Social Justice and Community Development.  This cross-denominational program engages students through a faith- and values-based perspective and provides:

  • an interdisciplinary foundation in justice theories and religious social teachings
  • a comprehensive, integrated curriculum, useful for various career paths in community development and social justice
  • practical tools in community organizing, social analysis and change, communication and non-violence, advocacy in public policy, working with volunteers, grant writing, and fundraising

The best way to learn about the possibilities of this degree in your life is to attend the upcoming open house hosted by our partner institution the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago.  Here are details on this opportunity:

Loyola SCUPE IPS Open House

You can read more about the connections between social justice and community development in a recent blog posting here by MASJCD program co-director Susan Rans.

Also, stayed tuned for an upcoming SCUPE podcast with the other co-director for the program: Mary Nelson of Bethel New Life.


Speak Life Spoken Word

Another local opportunity has come to my attention for those of you in the Chicago-land area.  Speak Life will use poetry and prayer to lift up the epidemic of violence in our city.

Speak Life spoken word event


Social Justice and Community Development

A partnership between SCUPE and Loyola University
combines Social Justice and Community Development
into one graduate level program (MASJCD).  Susan Rans writes
about how SJ and CD are not unusual bedfellows.

Dr. Mary Nelson' s Restoring Urban Communities Course

Many current and incoming students have asked for a description of the differences between the Social Justice and Community Development tracks of the MASJCD.  In the past, I have answered this question in a kind of shorthand:

Social Justice ‘thinks globally”; Community Development “acts locally”.  Here, I will attempt to put more meat on those bones.

The biggest idea behind the creation of the MASJCD was to join the theoretical and theological study of social justice to a place-based practice and policy approach to change in urban communities.  While the study of social justice leads toward action, the study of community development provides effective and proven tools for action.  So, another formulation might be that the study of social justice reveals why we must act and the study of community development shows what we can do.

It can also be said that community development is a form of social justice.  Our religious traditions speak clearly about the injustices of poverty, of war and of oppression of the powerless.  Answering this call often leads students to involvement in justice issues like eliminating poverty and hunger, ending wars, empowering women or welcoming immigrants.  Community development–building strong and liberating communities in which the economy is available to all, in which every member is a valued contributor, and in which access to health care, education and secure housing is a mandate–fulfills the social justice vision.

Community development also concerns itself with systems—their analysis and the ways in which they must change to become equitable and sustainable.  Understanding housing policy and the details of housing production are essential to changing the housing system.  Knowing the economics and politics of food production is necessary to work to provide local communities with access to healthy food.  As one Chicago community developer often says, “We need to discover ways to make big systems work for small places.”  Studying community development leads to that discovery.

In the end, an argument can be made that significant knowledge of both areas is essential to real and lasting change, and that’s why there is an MASJCD.  And toward that end, we do not require students to declare a track until one full-time semester has passed (one year for part-time students).  And we highly recommend that students take courses in both tracks early in their studies and even after they have chosen a track—a sort of major/minor arrangement.  The best mix of theory and practice, of global issues and local systems will produce to the best agents of social change—the goal of our program.

For more info and discussion of the program, feel free to contact me.

-Susan Rans
MASJCD Graduate Program Director


Congress Podcast

Episode two of the SCUPE Congress podcast is up for your listening pleasure!

SCUPE Congress Podcast – Jim Perkinson – Art & Faith in a Culture of Violence

We’re extremely excited about this audio exploration as it is as specific as it is far-reaching.  Listen in as we grab the intellectual coat-tails of poet-theologian Jim Perkinson and hang on for dear life.  Ah, the places we’ll go!  The result is a illuminating romp through the often unmapped, but intricately woven, terrain of art and faith… of culture and religion… of spirituality and materiality.

Jim Perkinson

Art & Faith in a Culture of Violence.

In this episode we celebrate the potency of art in a culture of violence and the peacemaking possibilities of faith as we talk with poet-theologian and author of White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity, Jim Perkinson.  We hear spoken word poetry from Jim and a number of other contemporary luminaries including Saul Williams, Billy Collins, and Quincy Troupe.

You can visit the SCUPE podcast library for descriptions and downloadable audio of past podcasts.

Next month we’ll hear from SCUPE President and founding director Dave Frenchak on imagination, prophetic preaching, and the role of hope in theology and the life of the community.


PBS to Air Radical Disciple: the Story of Father Pfleger

Pfleger and Hercules at Columbia College screening

When I attended the screening of Radical Disciple at Columbia College in January I can remember thinking, “wow, great film, but too bad no one will see it”.  The lines of media distribution certainly would make it hard for a little film like this to see the light of much day.  But then came along public television!

PBS is airing Radical Disciple this Wednesday, August 4 at 8pm.   The film by Bob Hercules attempts a balanced look at Father Michael Pfleger, a priest that garners equal parts respect and controversy in and around Chicago for his outspoken stances.  There may be no finer example of what a modern day prophet should look like nor a finer example of the angry bee hive one steps into by taking prophetic stances.

The film explores issues of racism, the power of the media, and the tension between different theological paradigms.  Most importantly though, the film is a personal look at the experiences which empower one individual to become clarion voice for justice in an unjust world.

Read about the initial screening of Radical Disciple on one of this blogs early posts.