People ask me all the time: “What the heck is Project CURATE?” Project CURATE stands for the Center for Urban Reconciliation and Theological Education. At its core, it is a grassroots organization that seeks to bridge divides that have fragmented the city into social, economic, and cultural areas of exclusion and segregation. Our work, as broadly defined, is invested in four areas:
- The development of curricula that attends to the complexity of the urban context with a scriptural imagination to formulate and contextually apply a relevant and robust urban biblical theology.
- The formation of diverse, multi-ethnic leadership cohorts and cohort facilitators from across racial, economic, education, language, denomination and ethnic divides. The intention of the cohorts is to develop a network of multi-ethnic leaders that are equipped in reconciliation competencies to do the work of critical encounter and relationship building towards restorative communities.
- The formation of workshops and smaller gatherings that cultivate intimate conversations around difficult conversations. These diverse gatherings employ music, the arts, spoken word poetry and conversation in a range of topics that include race, solidarity, economic and educational transformation rooted in an alternative biblical narrative. These are the “House Parties” that I talked about in my first blog post.
- The formation of coordinated action in the city that emerges from the cohort's learning groups. “Iconoclast Artists” was nurtured within our first cohort, and our conference "Re-Imagining Incarceration and Return" was the result of our second year cohort.
St. Paul’s vision to “lead change for the common good of all peoples and communities” provides an alternative narrative from the brutal election season from which we have emerged, one that highlighted the deeply rooted divisions between different ethnic, religious and cultural groups. As much of this unfolded, ordinary Christians were left wondering: What next? What can I do to make a difference? How can I practically live into the gospel call to reconciliation?
In the midst of the division and discord, there is a growing sense that the Christian virtues of love of neighbor, hospitality and hope for peace on earth provide a unique opportunity to work across boundaries and build stronger communities of reconciliation practice. My growing conviction is that this work must be rooted in relationships that can challenge and disorient our assumptions, the worldview we grew up in and the slippery stuff of “whiteness” that has the tendency to dress itself up in the religion and hide out. The work St. Paul’s is doing in CURATE is intended to be a space for this messy, necessary work.