Monday, November 24, 2008

Urban Plunge into Chicago's Neighborhoods

SCUPE’s CityVoices

A resource of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education

Seminary Students Explore Chicago’s Changing Neighborhoods

SCUPE held a “Seeing the City through Prophetic Imagination” community tour weekend for seminary students on Saturday and Sunday, November 1st and 2nd. Designed to introduce students to SCUPE’s Graduate Theological Urban Studies program and the wonders of the city. The two-day event also sought to introduce students to the challenge of community development at the neighborhood level. Students explored different community development models as they visited the Cabrini-Green and Auburn-Gresham neighborhoods, two different African American communities.

Cabrini-Green is a pubic housing area that is being redeveloped by outsiders who are economically displacing residents by the high cost of the new housing that is being built there, while Auburn-Gresham is a middle class neighborhood that being developed from the inside-out by residents living in the area with help from congregations like the Faith Community of St. Sabina, Catholic church leading the way.

Overall, 16 Master of Divinity students participated in the urban community exploration weekend. Students came from Western Theological Seminary (Holland, MI), Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY), and Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN). The seminary students gathered at the Walter Payton High School parking lot on a chilly Saturday morning and walked to nearby Cabrini-Green. Their community guide, Cynthia Stewart, a community activist and educator, who wrote her graduate thesis on the comparisons of community transformation between the top-down approach in Cabrini Green and the bottom-up faith-based approach of the Auburn Gresham community. She was informative, personable and very well connected with the churches in both communities. Dave Frenchak and Carol Ann McGibbon of SCUPE, also joined the group on their journey and helped to guide student reflections.

After touring Cabrini, the students visited with Rev. Chuck Infelt, pastor of Holy Family Lutheran Church, a local church located in the Cabrini Green neighborhood. Pastor Infelt gave a great historical overview of the community’s change from a high-crime, low-income, public housing to a quickly changing high-income, townhouse and homeownership-based ($300,000 and up) community. Students were exposed to each community’s history, as well as solid sociological, political, and theological analysis as they walked through the two neighborhoods.

The group began with Cabrini-Green in the morning and then traveled south by public transportation to Auburn-Gresham, where they dined at the Perfect Peace Café, an economic development project of St. Sabina Church. After a tour of the housing, senior complex, school and church, students returned to SCUPE for Chicago deep dish pizza and a time of theological reflection on the experience. Students were inspired by the community development work in Auburn-Gresham and several students expressed interest in learning more about urban ministry and SCUPE’s programs. Sunday morning, students had the choice of worshipping at one of several SCUPE internship sites - Bethel Lutheran Church, Fourth Presbyterian, the Faith Community of St. Sabina, New Life Community Church, LaVillita Community Church, Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church, and Trinity United Church of Christ. The weekend ended with lunch and a final debriefing before they headed home. The experience was such a good one that SCUPE will plan another community tour in the spring.


Thanks for Reading SCUPE’s CityVoices!

For further information about SCUPE, or CityVoices newsletter, contact:
SCUPE’s CityVoices, 200 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 502, Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 726-1200 phone / (312) 726-0425 fax

roger@scupe.comHome Page

Copyright 2008 SCUPE, Chicago, Illinois

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