Our Trespasses: White Churches and Urban Renewal

“Churches - and especially white churches - have frequently used the language of mission to obscure our relationship to land, space, and theological geographies. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Greg Jarrell QC Family Tree Contact Me

About this pastoral study project

In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States government funded the destruction of areas deemed to be "slums" in urban landscapes around the country. Urban Renewal projects destroyed primarily Black neighborhoods, and often replaced them with large public works project. The history of Charlotte, NC, presents and interesting study in how Christians and their religious institutions engaged with and participated in Urban Renewal. As in many cities, some churches - mostly Black ones - were displaced. Some - mostly white ones - chose to move to the suburbs. Some chose to remain in prominent downtown locations.

Charlotte holds one unusual story - that of First Baptist Church of Charlotte. That congregation moved into an Urban Renewal area, at a time when most of their peer congregations were making very different choices. Their narration of their choices at a crucial time in American political and religious life helps to illuminate Christian practice around mission and in understanding churches as institutions in neighborhood building projects.

Through original research, extensive interviews, and theological reflection, I will produce a book and a series of Christian education opportunities that accomplish these goals: for one, to illuminate an important historical story that implies a "something to be done" in repairing past mistakes; for two, to create several educational resources that illuminate the ways that churches relate to and help to develop their neighborhoods in their geographic placed-ness; and thirdly, to help build a local campaign to address historic injustices through acts of repentance and reapir.