Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing
Dennis A. Jacobsen, Fortress Press
“Community organising” is becoming a more familiar term to Uniting Church members after presentations at Synod and other Uniting Church meetings by Sydney Alliance, the community organising initiative started in 2007 among religious and civil society groups.
This book is a useful primer for those who want to discover the ins and outs of congregation-based community organising, a tool which has enabled churches of all persuasions to engage their communities in mission, revitalising not only the communities but also the congregations themselves.
The author is a Lutheran pastor and an old hand at community organising, being Director of the Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus that supports congregation-based community organising in the USA.
Jacobsen brings a practitioner’s as well as a trainer’s experience and shares many rich nuggets of wisdom for those wanting to have a go themselves. The book covers the basic concepts of community organising as well as some concepts relating to congregational life and involvement in community organising for which he draws from other aspects of his ministry, including, interestingly for a Lutheran, iconography.
At just 100 pages covering 12 chapters, this book is succinct and punchy. It contains a lot of biblical material which ground the concepts in Christian faith.
The biblical and theological work sometimes challenge accepted church practice and behaviour, or just seeks to find a “third way” between two theological poles.
It’s not a “how to” book but it is practical. And for each chapter there is a study guide, which draws out the biblical material as well as the author’s thoughts and invites readers to try them out and then learn from the experience.
Jacobsen says community organising is “essentially a relational process … rooted in unconditional love for other persons.” But it’s also about being “willing to act on a level that is commensurate with the injustices that we see”.
While the societal, cultural and political realities and structures of USA and Australia differ, the human condition and our relational nature remain the same, as do the gospel imperatives of doing justice, building peace and community.
This book is a digestible entre into what is a new, but well proven, process for engaging in mission.