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    CFUM Grant Program

    posted July 2014

    You will recall that our CFUM, Inc. closure process includes a Grants Program.  

    Grant Guidelines for applications will be posted on our website on August 112014.  

    CFUM, Inc. is entrusting our legacy to you through our grants to your urban ministries.We look forward to reading your applications. Final Grant decisions will be made by our entire Board.


    CFUM's Legacy

    posted July 2014

    SIERRA Magazine headlined a May/June 2014 editorial with: “What Sort of Person Reads SIERRA"? The writer stated that they remember only one other magazine asking that question: “What Sort of Person Reads Playboy?" The writer conveyed that Playboy’s answer was revealed in a series of full-page, photo-heavy ads revealing that a Playboy reader is a “manly man who attracts the attention of beautiful women because of his taste for silk robes, expensive booze and strong cologne.” Products that advertisers should choose to market in Playboy, of course. SIERRA’S answers were good. Playboy’s answers were memorable. But, their question struck a chord in me.

    So, what sort of person reads our CFUM E-newsletter??

    My answer (lacking full-page, photo-heavy ads) comes from listening attentively to many “City of God" participants, learning about some of your urban ministry programs, and dialoguing with you through e-mails.

    I’ve concluded that you read CFUM E-newsletters out of rigorous pursuit for authentic ministry in the citya passion for God's justice for the common good, and, the relentless probing for “best practice" resources for urban ministry. Have I described you?

    As CFUM shifts our focus to closing well, I have reflected often about the impact of our national ministry. While this decision to close our nonprofit ministry has brought some sadness for many of us, CFUM has much to be thankful for as we consider what God has done through us.

    The impact of CFUM will not end with the closure of the formal organization. Our legacy is YOU, our faithful urban ministry practitioners! And what an inspiring one it is! We are so grateful for the recent outpouring of support, well wishes, and messages of encouragement. Thank you!

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    New Seeds, New Growth

    posted June 2014

    Drawing upon the timeless, rhythmical and biblical images of seeds and growth, the President and the Chair of the Board of Directors announce the closure of Center for Urban Ministry, Inc., effective December 31, 2014.

    A Fertile History


    The images of seeds and growth are significant for us in this announcement. Fifteen years ago, the Rev. Dr. Doug Bailey, then Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in the downtown City of Memphis, envisioned and collaboratively formed this national urban ministry. This vision would bring together many ecumenical clergy and lay leaders in urban churches across our nation, providing “learning laboratory" growth through practical resources for urban congregations.

    Two years later Doug became a faculty member at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, developing and teaching urban/social justice ministry. CFUM, Inc. moved  to Winston-Salem, NC and affiliated with the Divinity School. Since Doug's retirement from the Divinity School, CFUM, Inc. has remained independent.

    The essence of CFUM, Inc. is to “inspire, challenge, assist and resource urban churches in their own transformation for the transformation of their cities.” 

    Throughout the 15 years, the flagship ministry of CFUM, Inc. has been the production of a national annual conference titled, The City of God for American Cities: Reinventing the Urban Church."   Hundreds of clergy and lay leaders have been engaged in these conferences, first in Memphis, and in our nation's capital for the past 13 years. Growing out of “City of God” conferences has been the opportunity for CFUM, Inc. to provide urban church consultations, weekend workshops and regional conferences across the country. Countless clergy and lay leaders bear testimony as to CFUM, Inc.’s unique niche for impacting the ministry within and through their city congregations.

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    The Singing of the Imbongis

    posted May 2014

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are adequate and powerful beyond measure.
    It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves,
    Who am I to be so brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
    Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

    These are the brilliant and oft-quoted words from the 1994 Inaugural Address by South Africa's first democratically elected president, the late Nelson  Mandela.
    The Rev. Dr. Peter Storey, South African- raised and a transformational voice, adds a fascinating slant to that memorable oath-taking day. Storey, retired President of the Methodist Church of South Africa and renowned former Bishop of Johannesburg, grew up under the malignancy of apartheid. Later he became one of the most courageous and liberating voices against apartheid while serving as President of the South African Council of Churches. He also served as one of the Robben Island prison Chaplains for the 27 year jailed and future president.
    One of Storey’s anecdotes about that 1994 Inaugural Day tells of the moments when a dignified Nelson Mandela addressed the gathered heads of state from across the world, the people of his nation, and a global TV audience.

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    "Plus Ultra"

    Posted April 2014

    Prior to Christopher Columbus setting sail across the Atlantic in the late 15th century, it was believed that the world ended out there somewhere beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. One of Spain's great “claims to fame" was that their nation was the last outpost of the known world. They were positioned, so they thought, at the edge of the great beyond.
    Illustrating this belief, the Spanish Royal Coat of Arms portrayed an image of the Pillars of Hercules, the ancient name for those mammoth stone monoliths on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar. Printed on the Pillars image was the Royal motto, with no modest pride: NE PLUS ULTRA, “No More Beyond."
    However, Columbus and his crew returned with remarkable “crack in the universe” information. They encountered, beyond the wildest of comprehension, a whole new world.
    In reality, they experienced something much "more beyond." The Royal Coat of Arms had egg all over its face. Then someone (I think it must have been an early advertising genius with a quick eye and daring spirit) made a noble and thrifty suggestion which was immediately accepted by the King of Spain: simply that they strike the first word, NE, from the motto. And so, the coat of arms would read, and has read ever since:  PLUS ULTRA. “More Beyond!"
    This historical anecdote is a good parable for Good Friday and Easter. Good Friday declares that Jesus is brutally executed. Killed for the cause of God's countercultural movement: The Kingdom of God! But his dead body is placed in a deathless grave. For, on that morning after Shabbat, there is that astounding announcement from the graveyard. As James Weldon Johnson proclaims: “Then comes that great ‘gettin up’ morning." Jesus is alive!  

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    Fast For Justice

    posted March 2014

    His loud "trumpet" blares at us on Ash Wednesday. The thunder hurts our ears and shakes our souls. The prophet bellows with disappointment and frustration. Isaiah is announcing that God has no appetite for Lenten fasts from chocolate or bourbon or ice cream. After all, we just return to such feasts on Easter Day, and thereafter. What lasting quality is found in that kind of fast?

    No! booms Isaiah, God demands an “acceptable", enduring fast. God's dream for us (particularly urban/city churches) is to fast for justice. To fast for “freeing the oppressed". To fast for “sharing our bread with the hungry, for bringing the homeless poor into our homes (and churches)." Only then, shouts Isaiah, shall you attain the name: “repairer of the breach; the restorer of streets." (Isaiah 58: 1-12; Ash Wednesday lectionary).
    “The restorer of streets!" That powerful promise has become forever transformed for me after a personal experience with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    Archbishop Tutu

    In September 1992 Archbishop Tutu arrived in Memphis to receive the International Freedom Award presented annually by the National Civil Rights Museum. City mayor, Dr. W.W. Herenton, appointed two Memphis civil rights icons (Rev. Dr. “Billy" Kyles and Rev. Dr. Fred Horton) and me to represent his Office for Tutu’s arrival at Memphis International Airport.

    We presented the legendary Archbishop with the Mayor’s “Key to the City" at the beginning of a brief press conference. Then, Revs. Kyles and Horton informed me that they had to depart for a meeting of their National Baptist Convention. I became the designated driver for Archbishop Tutu and his wife, Leah, to the landmark Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis.
    The Tutus were exhausted from their overnight flight from Johannesburg. The Archbishop placed Leah in the backseat, “for rest." She was asleep as soon as we drove out of the parking lot. The Archbishop, however tired he surely must have been, was vibrant in conversation during the drive to downtown.

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    Subversive Prayer

    posted February 2014

    Subversive: “to undermine the authority of a system or an institution" (New Oxford Dictionary). I personally prefer the Old French and Latin root, sub-vertere: “(sub) from below” in order “to (vertere) turn” life downside-up and outside-in.

    Sub-vertere Prayer: To alter a pattern of prayer that often becomes starved for fresh Wind and passionate Fire. Subversive Prayer: Praying from “under" life’s belly. “Turning” our life to the outside and bringing it inside.         

    Most every morning, near that curious edge when darkness is fractured by the primitive light of a new day, I make my way to my“hand of God" chair. 

    That phrase belongs to the Rev. Dr. Jim Forbes, former Senior Minister of The Riverside Church, NYC. When I used to lead Divinity School students on urban ministry pilgrimages in NYC, one of our regular pilgrimages was with Dr. Forbes and Riverside Church’s compelling Wednesday evening “Space for Grace". Forbes never failed to warn us (beginning with me) of the necessity, particularly for a pastor, to use a “hand of God" chair. Within that chair, the practice of persistent prayer reminds us that we can only live and do ministry within the clasping hands of God.

    My chosen chair is under a lamp, next to an antique chest, in our dining room-library. It is a straight back, wooden dining table chair. Hot coffee fills the mug in my hand. Close by is a Bible, a prayer list with world news, and Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals, my preferred title for Claiborne, Wilson-Hargrove and Okoro’s excellent and subversive guide for daily prayer.

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