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Urban Ministry

Author: Ronald E Peters
Published By: Abingdon Press (Nashville)
Pages: 197
Price: £10.99
ISBN: 978 0 687 64225 0

Reviewed by Alison Kennedy.

Blending scholarship with practical application, Ronald E Peters' passionate treatise on inner-city ministry is firmly grounded in experience. Prior to becoming Associate Professor of Urban Ministry and Director of the Metro-Urban Institute at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Peters served for eighteen years as a pastor in urban African-American congregations in the States.

Much of what Peters describes will resonate with those ministering in a British urban context. His description of the “alienation, fear and violence”, the extremes of wealth and poverty and the issues surrounding racial tension which characterise city life will be all too familiar. However, there are obvious differences between city life in the States and in Britain, not least that of sheer scale. British cities tend to be smaller and our parish boundaries tend to cover smaller and sometimes more heterogenous populations than the large neighbourhoods described by Peters. Equally, nowhere does scarcity of church resources figure as a concern, suggesting that it is simply not the huge headache that it is for many British urban (and, of course, rural) clergy. Similarly, his central tenet that urban ministry is sidelined within theological education is probably nowadays less true for us in Britain.

Nevertheless, the chapters exploring the centrality of the city in the biblical story and the seven core values with which he defines urban ministry (theism, love, justice, community, creativity, reconciliation and hope) are well handled and are more widely applicable to a British context.  His analysis of the wide variety of social arenas with which urban ministry needs to engage is also insightful and his vision of an “egalitarian metropolis” is inspiring.  His ‘bottom-up’ approach to theology is unlikely to be radically new to anyone acquainted with ‘base community’ theology, but to those new to the field, it provides a good summary. 

In short, this is a book which, although it has some contextual limitations, will provide some useful tools for reflection both for those wishing to review and those new to ministry in an urban setting.

Alison Kennedy

Team Vicar of St Peter's, Vauxhall, London

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You are reading Issue 45 of Ministry Today, published in January 2009.

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