LINKING ARMS, LINKING LIVES: How Urban-Suburban Partnerships Can Transform Communities
Ronald J. Sider, John M. Perkins, Wayne L. Gordon and F. Albert Tizon
Christian Ministry/Social Justice
One of the most enduring stereotypes about American society is the one that profiles urban and suburban communities along a strict set of demographics. The authors of LINKING ARMS, LINKING LIVES dispel long-held assumptions about those demographics and show how, by understanding the realities of the areas in which they minister, Christians in the cities and the suburbs can cooperate to bring about much-needed social change.
"The last twenty-five years or so have made a mess of the urban-suburban landscape. Where do cities end and the suburbs begin? Wealthy suburbanites are turning cities into suburbs, and poor urbanites are turning suburbs into inner cities," the authors write. But many of the poor still live in the cities and the wealthy in the suburbs --- meaning that they live in closer proximity than they have in decades. And that presents a real opportunity to see poorer neighborhoods transformed into productive communities.
Making that transformation a reality is the purpose of the book, and the key concept driving that purpose is partnership, a concept reflected in the writing partnership of the four authors.
After describing the need for transformation and the need for Christians to participate in that, the authors turn their attention to the biblical call to "radical community" --- the kingdom of God, a countercultural society characterized by a distinctively different relationship between the rich and the poor. That was the ideal for the people of God throughout biblical history, from Genesis to Revelation, and it continues today with the Great Commission.
After laying that groundwork, the authors define three of the foundational principles of community partnership --- deep reconciliation, authentic relationship and collaborative action --- and outline the dos and don'ts of such a partnership. Among the dos: do begin with existing relationships, do foster interdependence, do commit long-term. Among the don'ts: don't forget to love God, don't become a burden, don't forget to play.
The fruit of the hard work of community transformation extends beyond the benefit to the neighborhoods themselves: "Urban-suburban partnership may have its challenges, but the kingdom fruit that it can potentially bear --- theological, sociological, cultural and practical --- make the endeavor worthy of our affirmation and our uncompromising commitment," the authors write. The partnership fruits translate into the personal transformation of the partners themselves."
The book's 13 chapters provide numerous examples of partnerships that have succeeded, as well as some that didn't. The final chapter offers a step-by-step action plan for emerging urban-suburban partnerships.
All four authors have been active in community transformation on a practical level. Ronald J. Sider and F. Albert Tizon are professors at Palmer Theological Seminary and executives with Evangelicals for Social Action. John M. Perkins, director of the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development, and Wayne L. Gordon, pastor of Lawndale Community Church in inner-city Chicago, are co-founders of the Christian Community Development Association.
LINKING ARMS, LINKING LIVES is a dense volume packed with information crucial to anyone working to make a difference in poverty-stricken areas in cities and suburbs. Its authors know firsthand what it means to live and work among the poor; theirs is no abstract, theoretical challenge to the church but a get-to-work and get-dirty proposal. Though some readers may have preferred a more condensed volume, the book is a must for workers in the field.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford (email@example.com)
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