CCDA Collective is curated to respond to this year’s unique obstacles and opportunities.
The story of The Valley of Dry Bones is a fitting narrative to help us recenter our work as Christian Community Development practitioners. Right now, we feel we’ve been led to a place where we are searching for Breath; the Valley of Dry Bones. As practitioners we ponder:
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Can These Bones Live?
Dr. Joyce del Rosario
There have been many days in 2020 where I have found myself overwhelmed by the circumstances in which we live. The shoe is about to drop and things will soon get worse. For instance, Pew Research reported higher rates of unemployment in the first three months of COVID-19 than in two years of the Great Recession.
Job losses mean people will find it more and more difficult to pay their rent which will make it difficult for landlords to cover their costs, thereby leading to inevitable evictions. Job losses mean increased hunger among communities that were already struggling to feed their families.
We haven’t been talking about this upcoming surge of people experiencing houselessness and hunger, but it’s happening and we will feel the effects of our disproportionate access to health, financial, government, and social systems, as they press down even harder on the already poor and vulnerable. And judging by the disproportioned rates of COVID-19, these realities will impact our communities of color all the more. The availability of a vaccine feels far away and I find myself scanning the streets for signs of life.
“Can these bones live?” the Lord asks the prophet, Ezekiel. Said differently, “Is there a sign of life?” Instead of picking through the bones to find signs of life, the Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy life back into the dry bones. The Lord tells Ezekiel to speak life into the dry bones. Don’t passively hope to find it, actively speak into it.
How do we speak life into the dry bones around us? Not all of us have the gift of prophecy like Ezekiel, but as CCDA practitioners we all have the ability to find hope in hard places. We serve in our neighborhoods and with our communities because we believe that God was and is and will continue to work in places that have long been ignored, dismissed, abandoned, and oppressed.
We believe in restoration and resurrection. We believe in God who spoke life into the darkness and created the earth. We believe in God who breathed life into the dirt and formed Adam. We believe in God who brought the life of Jesus to a young girl named Mary. We believe in God who breathed the fire of Pentecost into what would become the church today. When we serve in our neighborhoods, we speak life into these dry bones.
Our presence in our communities speaks life. When we stand up for Black Lives and anti-racism we speak life where there have been too many deaths. When we share food and shelter with those in need we speak life. When we check in with our neighbors and make sure they are not lonely in this time of isolation we speak life.
Our call as CCDA practitioners is not just to hope and pray, but to actively immerse ourselves in our communities and speak life, not just because our neighbors need it, but because we need it too.
It’s true, the walks I take around my neighborhood are littered with bones, but that does not diminish my faith. May we as a community of believers find hope and life in God who loves us. May we find encouragement and strength in one another. May we empower one another to be the voices who speak life into the death and suffering around us. May we garner the courage to admit that now more than ever, we need each other.
Enabling The Army of God
By Daniel Aaron Harris
Can these dry bones live? I’ve read Ezekiel 37:1-10 many times throughout my spiritual journey, and I never thought to apply it to myself or my community as it pertains to our bodies. Over the last few years, this passage has taken on new meaning.
Growing up in Memphis, I always wanted to be a pastor. Pastors have always been viewed in my mind as people who care for those around them. More than that I saw them as defenders, listeners, mothers and fathers. This still is my heart’s desire: to be wanted and needed.
Cerebral Palsy got in the way. I thought I had to overcome my disability in order to become a pastor. Joining seminary, starting a ministry, and becoming a member of CCDA was all part of trying to overcome disability.
“Can these dry bones live?” God asked the prophet. We know what the world says about dry bones but God wanted to know what the prophet thought. Over the last few years I have done some self discovery and now I believe that God made me perfectly with my disability.
Just like Ezekiel, God asked me, “can I use your disability and that of your friends? Do you believe me, or the narrative the world has given you?” Now I realize that I’m made in the same image as everyone else. Now I can say, just like Ezekiel, “ Lord you know,” and trust in his narrative.
The passage goes on to say that The Spirit breathed on the dry bones and they were made alive! Our gifts are not our own, but bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit. In verses 5-6 we learned that the bodies couldn’t move without the spirit being breathed into them. The breath of God is what makes us useful, not our human abilities.
In Acts 1:4 Jesus tells his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit. It’s the Spirit that enables us, just like with the disciples, to preach The Gospel. All of us are unable in the valley until the Spirit alone enables us. At Fallen Walls, the ministry I run, we are that prophetic voice saying “LIVE”, because we are all created, connected, called and commissioned.
I believe that healing can come in a lot of ways. One of those ways is by reminding each other of the true story. I believe that this starts with our kids. I share my truth by writing children’s books that change the narrative. I imagine that 20 years from now we will have unstoppable leaders with cerebral palsy . Why? Because someone was that prophetic voice saying… “yes, God can do all things, and go, be who you’re created to be”.
After we take part in changing the narrative, we have to prophesy that the Spirit would enter these living bodies, causing them to move. Practically speaking we can do this by participating in each other’s lives, cultivating the gifts that we know that the spirit has placed inside us all, and activating each other to go do the same. Then we all will see the true story, that these bones are an exceedingly great army.
The Plot Twist
By Darryl Answer
The Plot Twist
If you have spent much time reading scripture you have discovered that it is full of what I like to call “the plot twist”. God is the originator of the plot twist. While the biblical canon is complete and there is nothing to be added or taken away, the Spirit of God continually speaks through the Word, and is relentless in the reconciliation of all things back to Christ. In CCDA we understand that the work of Justice is central to the ministry of reconciliation. As the Spirit speaks, we speak, and as the Spirit cries out, we too should cry out.
Unless you have been isolated from all forms of civilization you will know that we are currently in what many (including myself) believe to be a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement. But this is where the plot thickens…The voices crying out in our streets for justice are not the clergy and laity in our churches, but instead they are those on the margins of society.
They are those who Howard Thurman called the “Disinherited”. They are raising a prophetic voice for justice and putting their bodies on the line to see systemic change in this land. Of course, there are followers of Jesus engaged in the work, and have joined those on the margins in the pursuit of justice, but unfortunately that group is a minority in the church. They are the outliers.
In Ezekiel 37:1-10 God sets the prophet in the middle of a valley, full of dry bones and asks, “Can these bones live?” God asks this question as a reminder to us that even in a valley of death God can bring life!
Ezekiel gave a prophetic word to the bones, the Spirit of God brought new life to what was once dead, and an army was raised up. As I have heard this scripture preached, the dry bones are interpreted to be those who are dead in sin, brought to new life.
As I reflect on our current political and social moment, I see a plot twist. I believe our current calling out for justice in the streets is a “prophetic word” and invitation for the church to rise up and join our neighbors in the struggle for righteousness and justice.
There is a cry for justice in our communities, not coming from a unified voice of the church, but those on the margins. We are in a moment when a prophetic word is being spoken to the people of God who find themselves in the valleys of complacency, white supremacy, nationalism, and affluence or the pursuit thereof.
The Spirit of God cries out along with those in our streets who grieve the devaluing of black lives. The Spirit of God cries out along with those who are suffering due to the violence in our neighborhoods. The Spirit cries out along with those who are living in crippling poverty and are navigating our housing crises.
My prayer for the church is that she will hear the cries of the people, respond to the prompting of the Spirit, and be moved to link arms with those doing Justice. May God’s Kingdom come and will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.