The sights, sounds, and spirituality of a transforming community
As incarnational ministers in urban marginalized communities, we are constantly paying attention to how God is at work in a neighborhood. Our Nine Signs of a Transforming Community represent key elements to look for, but here are a few more.
Contagious outbreaks of joy Joy is meant to be shared. When a community’s shared challenges are being addressed, neighbors rejoice together. This might look like abounding gladness at community gatherings, or when neighbors are friendlier with one another. Joy is an experience of togetherness and belonging–when residents feel this is “our” neighborhood, our home, and our place.
People find restoration of dignity and pride in their image of God People in urban marginalized communities often endure devaluing and disempowerment. One participant of San Jose Bridge Communities, a San Jose partner ministry, said, “I never knew I could be a leader–but the ministry brought out the leader in me.” We are meant to empower people to embrace their own value, potential, and purpose as people made in the image of God. When people begin to internalize a sense of dignity and belovedness, we know that God is at work among them.
The rekindling of hope Servant Partners staff Annabel Leyva shared that the slogan of her Mayfair neighborhood home in San Jose was “Sal si puedes,” or “Get out while you can.” God restored her hope to remain in Mayfair and work for its good. Momentum and hope for change builds as God’s Spirit moves. Longstanding cynics are softened by hope, and even participate in working for transformation–like Mama Q in South Los Angeles, who went from resignation about a polluting oil drilling operation to hope for its removal. Hope is what God uses to carry communities forward, into a transformed reality.
Inclusion replaces suspicion Where there was once fear or distrust for neighbors, God’s work of peacemaking instills a spirit of welcome and inclusion. A birthday party may send plates of food home with guests, homes might acquire additional chairs to sit with neighbors, and both literal and figurative walls of separation are broken down. One Lincoln Heights resident said that Jesus’ transformation in him has made it the first time he can walk without looking over his shoulder, for fear of violence.
We see the Nine Signs popping up! Picture this: a computer literacy class builds a person’s skills, enabling them to launch their small business. That business, in turn, creates economic stability for their family and helps to relieve tensions that previously strained their relationships. Seen through the lens of our Nine Signs framework, this person’s experience bears witness to transformation through lifelong learning, wealth at the bottom, and whole families. God’s transformation of communities is Christ-centered, liberative, beautiful, spiritual, political, environmental, systemic, and altogether holistic. What are the signs of transformation happening in your community?
Learn more about the Nine Signs of a Transforming Community at www.servantpartners.org/about.