Book Review- Crayons for the City

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Book Review- Crayons for the City

The Living Pulpit Book Review- December 2018

By Lisa Jarnot

Crayons for the City: Reneighboring Communities of Faith to Rebuild Neighborhoods of Hope by Kevin R. Yoho. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017. 276 pages. $33.

In the mid-1990s, when consigned to what looked like a termination mission for an underpopulated church in a low-income neighborhood, Pastor Kevin Yoho found instead an opportunity to reflect upon the possibilities for remodeling urban ministry. Crayons for the City is the record of his journey with his church and its surrounding public spaces, and a guide to pastoral leadership and community transformation. This book provides a comprehensive blueprint for a holistic approach to church organizing. It takes into consideration the complex socio-political and emotional factors that intersect to make a community. Wilkey Memorial Presbyterian Church in Kensington, Philadelphia and the larger neighborhood around it, serve as the landscape for this deep study of what Yoho calls “reneighboring”—discerning and encouraging natural connections between people and organizations, and enabling young people to transform the trauma of social injustice through an identification with Christ. The book’s title alludes to a part of the youth ministry developed around Wilkey Memorial Church that allowed local children to testify to their experiences with a simple hands-on program of art therapy or “drawing intervention,” arriving at what Yoho calls “the power of a crayon to remove stigma.” This is but one of the seeds of a larger project that unfolds through the pages of Crayons for the City. The book gives deep accounts of a complex web of creative missional initiatives developed in the reneighboring of Kensington over the span of a decade. Sports programs, storytelling, summer camps excursions, and collective cross-generational responses to immediate family emergencies all formed the foundation out of which a community found grace in the midst of suffering.

Crayons for the City is encyclopedic in its weave of photographs, drawings, bibliographic references, and study questions. It is also meticulous in anecdotal, scriptural, historical, and sociological reflection, providing pastors, teachers, community organizers, and mental health professionals with a wealth of hands-on information and spiritual inspiration. A thoughtful and insightful vision of mission emerges, reminding faith leaders that success cannot be measured simply in church planting and church building but also in the way in which we support communities in transition—especially those struggling with urban decline, cultural dislocation, and environmental crises. As Yoho points out:

This book is about the leader’s role as an ecclesiastical engineer and social entrepreneur introducing needed disruption by trying to pay attention and reinvent the way ministry engages the greater community. Our neighborhood’s mental map became distorted as a result of stigma and its associated consequences, including impaired family, educational, economic, and political systems. This is a story about a journey to shift the mental map from stigma to hope by realigning the motivations of a church to serve the public good with the good news.

Here, a praxis theology of place emerges and reminds us that the city is crucial to God’s plan. The book is an archival gift of a moment of ministry, but it is also a complete user’s manual for faith and activism in the 21 st Century. In a time when urban churches and church neighborhoods can so often feel like entirely separate entities, Crayons for the City offers faith leaders a blueprint for critical mission outreach and “reneighboring” possibilities. Yoho writes that “learning how to use the tools we developed in Kensington, the reader can embrace their history and neighborhood seriously and experience transformation, too. What we discovered in Philadelphia was that even closed and isolated fortresslike churches could become accessible, street-present, hope-bearing communities of faith blessing the entire community at large.” This in itself makes the book essential reading. Toward the end of Crayons for the City, but very much at its emotional center, are a series of chapters supplying the reader with a picture of the nuts and bolts of the Wilkey Memorial Church project. Chapter 8 (“Engagement Act 1, Reneighboring the Congregation”), Chapter 9 (“Engagement Act 2, Reconnecting the Community”), and Chapter 10 (Engagement Act 3, Restoring Hope”) provide a detailed set of tools so that faith leaders can emulate what was accomplished at Wilkey and expand youth and community focused outreach in urban churches. This added element (with curriculum outlines for storytelling and drawing sessions, sample focus group questions, and charts for tracking project outcomes) makes the book ideal for religious education ministry teams and pastoral community outreach committees. Given its range of implications for ministry, this book is worth circulating throughout the administration of any church.

About the book review author

Lisa Jarnot is a Masters of Divinity candidate at New York Theological Seminary. She is the author of several books of poetry as well as a biography of the San Francisco poet Robert Duncan published by University of California Press in 2012.

This Book Review was published by The Living Pulpit (eISSN 1946-1771), published quarterly by The Living Pulpit, Inc., 475 Riverside Drive Suite 500, New York, NY 10115, USA. Copyright ©2019 by The Living Pulpit, Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed in print and online with permission of the author and publication. Visit www.pulpit.org for more information, or to sign-up for a free individual subscription.

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Memories for the Imagination

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Memories for the Imagination

What do you remember? How can our memories fuel our imaginations that help us fulfill our loife’s purpose? Your imagination matters. Find out how our memories can inform new, creative, learning that results in fresh ways of authentic, intentional, and active engagement and outcomes.

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Happy Labor Day and a Joyful September

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Happy Labor Day and a Joyful September

September Is the Perfect Time To Increase Your Joy! 

September begins with our national Labor Day celebration, a movement in the United States that started in Oregon and later spread to New Jersey and three others states in 1887. Designated by the federal government to be the first Monday in September, it is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

Remember to express gratitude for your staff, and the myriad of current and retired workers both in the worshipping community and our community at large. Workers have contributed to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our congregation, and our country. The holiday is well-deserved. We should take joy in our work, and enjoy rest from our labor, too.

“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the people in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the church to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).

In the passage above from Acts, the ministry team that included Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and John Mark decided to re-calibrate the good things they did by paying attention to what was bringing joy, and what wasn’t. They knew that God not only cared about what we accomplish, but how we are feeling. Our wellness of mind, body, and spirit applies to faith communities, too.

More individuals have volunteered to take on new responsibilities and many others have increased their participation in worship, activities, events, and ministries. But there is a flip-side to positive engagement; it is called fatigue. As we continue to grow and learn, we need to monitor ourselves so that we do not become fatigued in doing good (see Galatians 6:9). How are you feeling? Do you feel energized or fatigued? Do you feel over- or under- utilized? Are you ready for something new? Or, maybe you need a well-deserved break, or to do something different?

While we can feel energized, from time to time we may feel a bit overwhelmed. If you do, that’s O.K., and please let me and others know. We care about how you are feeling! We don’t want to sacrifice our own sense of joy in serving. One of the early mottos of the Labor Day movement was “8 Hours Work, 8 Hours Recreation, 8 Hours Rest.” There is a natural rhythm to the cycles of life in our work, in our volunteer service, and in our retirement, too!

For example, the rhythms of engaging a new vision, preparing, and maintaining high engagement, and then enjoying accomplishments should naturally be followed by rest, learning, reflection, and the option for re-engagement. These cycles vary for each person and can span days, weeks, or months, depending on our circumstances. It’s all good. We might have been energized by serving for years as a liturgist or on a church team, for example, but we now may want to try something different. That’s great! Try something different

Do you volunteer with a community organization, not for profit, or service group? Thank you for your service! But remember to pay attention to your own wellness to be sure you are getting the resources you need to offer your best.

We tend to overlook our own needs. But to experience more satisfaction and joy in your service to others, the first week of September is the perfect time to recalibrate, and be open for what God may invite you to do next. The Apostle Paul’s mission team decided to uniquely invest their resources to visit all the towns where they had served to see how they were doing (Acts 15.36), which resulted in strengthening the churches (Acts 15:41). We need to be strengthened, too.

No matter what availability or particular gifts you have to offer, remember to express them! You can make a difference. Enjoy your Labor Day. Let’s make time to pause, rest, and then consider how to creatively re-engage to experience joy in the ministry opportunities ahead!

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