Category Archives: Practice

Empowering Students to Confront Violence

In the aftermath of the shooting of a peer, young people in Evanston, IL came to Sharon Weeks and asked,

“What are we supposed to do?
Who is going to speak for us?”

Evanston IL anti-violence march and rally

When Sharon Weeks signed up for the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry as a part of SCUPE’s class for seminary students she didn’t know what she was getting herself into.  Come Thursday morning she would be one of the 300 Congress attendees at an anti-violence rally in front of the Illinois state building.

Sharon describes the rally as transformative:

“I was so excited I didn’t know what to do with myself… It was already something that I stood for and believe, in and to see so many other people feeling that same way… I was exhilarated!”

Anti-violence march and rally in Evanston ILA couple days later, when students from Evanston Township High School came to Sharon, she told them of her experience of public witnessing against violence at the Congress and they jumped on the idea.

Within minutes the students were busy creating signs and t-shirts, calling and texting friends, and planning for the march.  For Sharon it was clear that the students saw the march as “a way they could get the community to pitch in and understand that they don’t want to be target”

The march proved to be a great success in gathering the community around youth violence. In a few short days, students had mobilized a large cadre of support.  Along with strong participation from students and community members also in attendance were:  the Mayor of Evanston, the Evanston School District Superintendent, teachers, business owners, police officers, several aldermen, and the President and Dean of Students of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

The group plans to continue the work of strategically confronting, addressing, and educating the community on youth violence by organizing forums, workshops, classes for parents, and by including students at area Middle Schools and Alternative Schools in the anti-violence efforts.

Evanston IL students and communty march for peaceSharon Weeks is the sponsor for two of the youth groups that sponsored the march: the Evanston Township High School chapter of the NAACP and the Youth Works Committee for the city of Evanston.

When young people came to her looking for their voice Sharon Weeks told them, “Speak for yourself and tell people how you’re feeling” – and then she gave them the tools to do just that.

For Sharon Weeks, being a part of empowering young people is part of being open in faith to God’s moving. When asked about her role, Sharon simply replies: “God, this is you.”


CAATS Open House

CAATS open house

Wondering what your next step in ministry should be?

Are you seeking to better prepare yourself to serve the African American community?

Come to the CAATS Open House and find out how our programs can help.

The Center for African American Theological Studies will sponsor an Open House for pastors and church leaders who are interested in finding out more about the Nurturing the Call certificate in urban ministry and Master of Divinity degree program.

The Open House will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the SCUPE office, 200 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 502 in downtown Chicago.

Please RSVP by Monday, Dec. 13 to Dody Finch, dody(at)scupe.com or call 312-726-1200 ext. 233.

CAATS open house flyer


Connecting for Ministry

Cynthia Milsap - Congress on Urban Ministry

In this video, Cynthia Milsap explains how she first came to the Congress on Urban Ministry and how it connected her to leaders, mentors, and partners in ministry.

Cynthia directs Nurturing the Call – SCUPE’s seminary prep program for church leaders exploring their call to ministry.  She has previously served as executive director of The Night Ministry, and is pursuing her doctorate in Education at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, where her research topic is “Women in Ministerial Leadership.”  Cynthia also serves on the ministerial staff at Second Baptist Church in Evanston, IL.


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


Peacemaking Insight #4 – Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Urban pastor Urban pastor and SCUPE faculty Bill Wylie-Kellermann talks about the Congress on Urban Ministry and how seminary students can get credit for attending through his Congress Course ‘Good News for the City’.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann Peacemaking Insight #4Bill is a United Methodist pastor who currently serves at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in the Corktown neighborhood of Detriot, MI.  He is a committed Christian activist, frequent contributor to Sojourners, and a theologian in the tradition of William Stringfellow and Walter Wink who specializes in the biblical concept of the Principalities and the Powers.

Bill Wylie-KellermannBill is the author of Seasons of Faith and Conscience (Orbis) which explores the biblical and theological bases for non-violent resistance and “liturgical direct action” and has edited an anthology, A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow (Eerdmans).

For the previous decade he was Director of Graduate Theological Urban Studies at SCUPE in Chicago.  Recently he helped create Word and World, a floating movement school for faith-grounded activists.


Jim Wallis on Building Faith-based Social Movements

Jim Wallis speaks at 2006 CongressI’ve been going through some of the old recordings from the past plenary speakers at Congress on Urban Ministry.  As we approach these mid-term elections in a frenzy of political polarization, attack ads, and electioneering I was struck by the relevance of this plenary Jim Wallis did back in 2006.

Jim WallisJim Wallis is an author and the founder/editor of Sojourners.  He has been a crucial voice for American Christianity that crosses the normal, hard and fast, boundaries of left and right, liberal and conservative.

Listen here or below as Jim Wallis  speaks at the 2006 Congress about moving from partisan politics (and partisan religion) towards creating and nurturing a movement for social justice based on faith and hope.

One of the highlights for me is near the middle where, for a couple minutes, he hits upon this idea that the Beloved Community must be built up by moving from ministry to models to movement.  Wallis gives credit to ministries (saying at one point that if everyone in this room stopped their ministry there would be many cities that would literally stumble) but also pushes the Congress to move past ministry and even models that help extend ministry toward movements that bring ministry to bear upon systems and structures of injustice.

Jim Wallis at 2006 CongressI wish Jim would have pressed a bit harder on this as I think many socially mindful/active Christians (Jim Wallis included) are still searching for the way to build a movement.  The civil rights movement is an extraordinary exemplar but, times have changed and I would contend that the powers that benefit from the status quo have successfully developed methods to diffuse social movements created with familiar paradigms.  We must create a new paradigm of movement and then allow it to adapt.  I would contend that the best way to do this is by listening and being responsive to the Spirit.

If you are reading this from a Chicagoland location you might be interested to know that Jim Wallis will be participating in an informal debate out at Wheaton College on this coming Thursday.  He will engage Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, in an informal debate: “Does Capitalism Have a Soul?”.  Here are the details:

Thursday, October 28th – 2010
7pm at Edman Chapel
Debate to be moderated by Washington Post Columnist Michael Gerson.

More info here.


Peacemaking Insight #3 – Shanta Premawardhana

Incoming SCUPE president Shanta Premawardhana explains how the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry will give people committed to peace the tools to address issues of violence like gang violence, abuse of women, Islamophobia, and fear-based responses to issues around immigration.
Shanta Premawardhana