“I am convinced that we can no longer maintain old paradigms of ministry that compartmentalize and truncate the work of the kingdom and still make an impact in our world, which is in need of love and restoration.”
Some of us spend a lot of time in the streets. In our neighborhoods, in our communities, in hidden tucked away places that tourists don’t visit. Some of us live and breathe and love these spaces that exist in the margins of our American dream sensibilities. And some of us have spent extra time in the streets declaring that #BlackLivesMatter and all immigrant lives matter. Some of us have been struggling to help others see the Imago Dei in our people, our neighbors. Whew. That. Is. Tiring. Perhaps you have vacillated between supreme encouragement by the bravery of those around you and crippling despair because of the cruelty of others in your context. You are living out how the cross meets the streets.
Perhaps you are new to the game. You are having an awakening, of sorts, about the God of the oppressed, but you aren’t quite sure what it all means. You’re longing for something to dig into that will help you know how to engage. There is so much injustice, but you don’t know how to help or even where to begin.
Where the Cross Meets the Street is a teaching narrative and testimony by Noel Castellanos, speaking to those seasoned in community development and social justice and also those just getting oriented. A quick read, it feels like you are having a personal conversation with Noel or observing him teach a small group of people. Peppered with Noel’s wit and humor, it’s comforting, encouraging and relatable. Utilizing scripture, poetic rhythms, and various forms of imagery, Noel is gifting us with how he came to know that a dedication to those in the margins is central to the gospel.
Many members of the Christian Community Development Association have seen Noel present his cross illustration. Each time I’ve seen him present,it’s with the same passion and gusto that is evident in this book. Patiently, Noel unpacks an incarnational understanding of the gospel. He shows us how our efforts to see redemption in our communities must be incarnationally grounded in four things: proclamation and formation, the demonstration of compassion, restoration and development, and the confrontation of injustice.
I love the way this book resonated with me as an African American woman, because for the most part, it is not about the African American experience. It’s about Noel’s Mexican American journey from southern Texas to Northern California to La Villita in Chicago. It’s about his heart to see Mexican and Latino communities on the margins flourish. I’m grateful for what I learned about the origins of Mexican devotion to Guadalupe and how it reflects the importance of incarnational living and about Latino liberation theologians who radically changed his understanding of faith. I didn’t feel disconnected from the story because Noel welcomed me into the realities of his barrio. As a fellow believer and activist, I see myself in the story of God’s heart for La Villita.
Furthermore, if you are Latino and you have been looking for how Christ specifically speaks to your people’s varied realities, I believe Noel’s words will affirm and equip you with a bevy of other resources.
There is an almost sacrificial honesty to Noel’s narrative. He allows us to see his struggles, his weaknesses and places he has made mistakes. I admire his honesty, because in order to be in this thing for the long haul, we need leaders who will teach us about their shortcomings and trials. He shares experiences that have been painful for him in this work and ways he has met God in it. He also makes it unabashedly clear that our God cares for injustice, and we are called to do something about it.
I recommend you get two copies of the book: one for you, one to share. For those unexposed to community development, it’s a nice introduction to what we do. For those seasoned practitioners, it will encourage and remind you to be steady and continue to expand your work. For the weary hearts out there––let us press on. Where the Cross Meets the Street will support our efforts together.
Zakiya Jackson loves speaking, teaching and facilitating on community development and racial justice. She is part of the second CCDA Leadership Cohort. A proud southerner, she currently resides in Michigan and works for the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, where she utilizes her background in youth development and her MBA. Zakiya loves laughter, bright colors, chocolate and dancing like no one is watching. You can follow some of her antics @ZakiyaNaemaJack or her writing at Collected Young Minds.
Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to the Neighborhood When God Is at the Center
Missio Alliance Essential Reading List of 2015 The cross means more than we’ve let it mean. Proclaiming the gospel and forming the faithful: these are the most practiced disciplines of the evangelical church. As central as these disciplines are, however, they are only part of the story. And as Christian Community Development Association CEO Noel […]