Category Archives: Yvonne Delk

Lore and Forgetting: the Congress on Urban Ministry

Dr. Cornel West speaking at 1994 Congress

Dr. Cornel West speaking at 1994 Congress

Whenever I have the chance I burn through a quick hour in the file cabinet room here at SCUPE.  It’s amazing what one learns from the artifacts someone, at some point, decided should be saved.

Lately, I have been rifling through old files and photo albums over the course of the past few months uncovering a history of the Congress that has been, it seems, all but forgotten.  Over 34 years and (once March of 2011 is here) 16 gatherings is a lot of time to form your own lore.  SCUPE’s Congress on Urban Ministry certainly has compiled its fair share of lore but, for a large national event, I am also surprised about how well of a kept-secret it is.  Well, I think that should change.  It is time that this collaborative, inter-denominational, prophetic gathering gets its just dues.

1994 SCUPE Congress on Urban Ministry

Jim Forbes, Yvonne Delk, unknown, Dave Frenchak, Cecil Williams, And Mary Nelson at 1994 Congress

Over the course of the next couple weeks I’ll share some of the lore I’ve been able to uncover and perhaps we’ll get insight into how the 2011 Congress can continue to be an impact-full gathering as we address the violence in our cities, in the way we live together, and in the way we think.

Just today I stumbled across these goals that had been lifted up at past Congress gatherings.  Even though I haven’t seen this list before today it is my guess that I would have been able to guess some of these just from being involved in the visioning here at SCUPE and with the Co-chairs and through the collaborative planning process with the National Planning Committee.

Mission for SCUPE Congress on Urban MinistryThe Mission of the Congress on Urban Ministry:

  1. To inspire both new and experienced Urban Ministry practitioners, to celebrate their calls and accomplishments, and to challenge them spiritually and professionally.
  2. To teach and learn we will seek ways to create redemptive communities, release prophetic imagination, and engage in justice, reconciliation and restoration
  3. To teach and learn best Urban Ministry practices, to collaborate and envision breakthrough initiatives, and to study and dialogue about the deeper issues affecting communities.
  4. To network practitioners and national leaders for information exchange, for fellowship, and to sharpen the skills needed to transform communities.

The Role of Utopia in Vision

Yvonne Delk spoke passionately this morning at our SCUPE staff meeting about Haiti through the eyes of the three orphanages (1, 2, 3) she has been working with in recent years.  Through her visits (pre-earthquake) and education Rev. Delk has gained considerable insight into the history and struggle of the people of Haiti from colonialism to their over- throwing of French rule to the economic ostracism and divestment that has characterized the European response to the first free black nation in the Western Hemisphere and early herald of the post-colonial world.

Yvonne Delk at '06 Congress

Delk voiced the cry she directed towards God in the hours and days following the earthquake but then shifted her focus to the ways in which this was a disaster whose destructive magnitude was predicated largely by humankind.  The response of humankind now must be swift and immediate (and not rooted in the militarism that seems to have dominated the U.S. response so far) but also it must work to create instances of restorative justice that will repair and make amends for the history of abuses leveled at the people of Haiti.  The blood of the death toll rests not merely with the act of nature that was the earthquake but with every economic act that weakened the structure of Haiti buildings for the earthquake, weakened the infrastructure that would have cared for those injured by the earthquake, and the shrouded the nation in a deathly poverty before the earthquake.

What then should be the world’s response?  We know it needs to be more/different than what has been done so far (consult Bill Quigley’s “Too Little Too Late for Haiti? Six Sobering Points”).

What if the world’s response to Haiti spurred a worldwide response of restorative justice that began to make amends for the centuries of colonialism, racism, and slavery that has stolen and debilitated entire nations of people?  What if this response did not wait for disasters of such horrible magnitude as the Haiti earthquake and did more than create merely momentary compassion?

My own utopian dreamer alarm bells are going off here but it’s important to remember the original purpose of utopian visions like that of Thomas More, Plato, and the bible’s Isaiah.  Konrad Raiser (former general secretary of the World Council of Churches) has pointed out that a true utopian vision has the power to reveal and break down false constructs of reality and then mobilizes us towards potential change.

What would a utopian response to the Haiti disaster look like?

It is only after engaging the vision that we can begin the work of tempering this vision with pragmatic concerns and blowing it open with creativity and prophetic imagination.  Only then we are truly free to ask (in the full sense of the word free):

How can the global citizenship work towards a global response that prevents this disaster from becoming what it is starting to become (which is a debacle)?  How can people collaborate towards creating this response and engaging the individual, community, organizational, faith- based, corporate, and governmental resources?


Another world is possible.  Another world is necessary.