Tag 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.


Should I attend the Congress if I’m not into Urban Ministry?

Susan Rans MASJCD

Susan Rans, director of the Master of Arts in Social Justice and Community Development program, encourages those who are interested in creating peace in neighborhoods, cities, and between nations (but perhaps not interested in urban ministry) to participate in the Congress and to be a part of the myriad of groups working for peace from diverse contexts and perspectives.

As apart of this continuing work towards peace, SCUPE is pleased to present the finalized workshop offerings for the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry.


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.


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


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.


Restoring Urban Communities

Mary Nelson teaching at Lake & Pulaski

Last weekend I spent some time in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago with Dr. Mary Nelson’s “Restoring Urban Communities” class.  If you haven’t heard about Mary Nelson you’ll want to – especially if  you’re involved in community development, community organizing, or just live in a neighborhood you care about.  Just as Dr. Nelson’s approach to C.D. (everyone in this field loves acronyms) is firmly rooted in the context of the community so is her May SCUPE/Loyola class.

Downtown From Rooftop Prarie on Eco-building

On the particular day I visited with the class Mary had us all cram into a 15 passenger van as she zoomed around the neighborhood.  At every corner of every block there was a story about a struggle the neighborhood had faced and how the community overcame, or at the very least challenged, the issues.  In 30 years of existence, Bethel New Life (the non-profit started by the Bethel Lutheran congregation) has joined the neighborhood in its joys and its struggles and has provided a model for the way church should be.

Two key elements of the way of church-life which Mary teaches are listening and an asset-based approach to looking at communities.  Listening is probably the more difficult of the two while Asset-based community development (ABCD) is the more counter-intuitive.

Reflection Back in the Classroom

The reason for this is that we are all quite used to going into communities and situations with our analytical minds probing for deficits and deficiencies.  Actively seeking out assets and proficiencies is hard-wired into the human brain.  From the dawn of conscious thought ancient humans analyzed their environment in search for the “wrong” factors that might prove dangerous: a sharp sudden cliff, a structurally un-sound cave, a bog stiff with lurking log-like snouts of crocodiles.  Our very survival has for centuries, and does still, depend on our ability to scout out what is wrong with a situation or an environment.

Looking for assets thus goes against a natural grain in our thinking.  This, I believe, is its wonderful offering to us though.  Looking at a community through asset mapping allows us to think in a different frequency and to see things that we would have otherwise ignored or written off.

We must learn to listen, to ask the right questions, and to look forward our neighborhoods walks, to unexpected conversations, and even community changes as chances to see what jumps out at us.  Maybe that lion is also a source of food!

Learning amidst the Rooftop Prairie and Solar Panels


Evangelism and Community Development

Roger Johnson

I started out as a youth worker in Chicago’s Humboldt Park in 1973, so I’ve been in urban ministry for a long time. I’ve seen God do some great things during those years, but I’ve also seen too much tension between urban ministers who’ve worked for community development (social & racial justice, full employment, good housing, quality education) and urban ministers whose primary concern has been evangelism (preaching & proclaiming the gospel, teaching God’s word, reaching people with Jesus’ salvation and starting new churches).

I’m now 58 years of age (wow!), and it’s occurring to me that community development and evangelism actually inform and resource each other a lot more than they stand in competition for urban energy, time and dollars. They’re really partner ministries and with complementary skill sets. Let me explain.

Both community development and urban evangelism seem to work best at grassroots levels. Urban leaders serve most effectively as they talk and minister directly to their neighbors, friends, relatives, and people on the edges of community groups, churches, block clubs and service agencies. A good community developer is a busy person who knows lots of people and is constantly calling, visiting, and listening to their needs. A good urban evangelist is is also a busy person with lots of people contacts and is also actively listening to people’s needs. Even when you have important news for people’s lives, you still have to hear their questions and stories first!

Community developers and evangelists both work best when they care for and love the people they’re serving. Each worker may have a strong understanding of their own goals, strategies and tactics; but without some compassion for the people they work with, very little gets accomplished.

It also seems to me that both the community developer and the urban evangelist must have a sense of the large transcendent values if they are to succeed in their work — especially through discouragements that will inevitably occur. The community developer must know that the temporary victories and defeats in their work are laying the foundation for better lives (social, economic, spiritual) for families and individuals. By the same token, the urban evangelist must also have a larger confidence that God is taking the good news they proclaim and using it to build a strong footing in the hearts and minds of people.

Community developers and evangelists are active, people-focused, caring and transcendent urban servants. Both are high-impact and centered upon change in people’s lives. As the community developer and urban evangelist continue to work for change, they complement, teach and even transform each other.

– Roger Johnson

79th Street Festival