By Ed Boling
As we head into Fresno City Summit 2015 we wanted to give you a quick thumbnail sketch at the conditions that birthed the City Summit movement, it’s enduring ideals, and a history of locations and speakers.
Randy White and H. Spees were among the first relocators in the Lowell Neighborhood roughly 20 years ago. Each of them shared recollections of the conditions that started the City Summit movement.
Randy White leading a breakout at Fresno City Summit 2013 in the back of Neighborhood Thrift’s box truck because of rain.
Though City Summit is only eight years old, what was happening in Fresno over 20 years ago caused the early rumblings of this movement. There were a number of great ministries operating in South Fresno in the early 90s: Salvation Army, Poverello House, Evangel Home, Evangelicals for Social Action and others.
Both Randy and H use the term Christ-centered civic renewal. This term describes the need to lean into all areas of need for long-term change. They have been very intentional about engaging the next generation with this concept. For two decades, 10 to 12 students have learned the heart of Christ-centered civic renewal at the Pink House and moved into Lowell.
H. Spees interviewing John Perkins at Fresno City Summit 2014.
There was a growing awareness that the city needed the gospel, as well as the idea that personal transformation and social transformation are closely connected. Evangelism brings you face to face with people and their needs. This proximity necessitates social response. Development takes you into the systems and structures, which are revealed to be racist, oppressive and unjust. The gospel ministers to the whole person, the whole church, and whole community.
In the early 90s, the Brookings Report revealed dramatic poverty in Fresno, especially downtown, to the rest of the world. Fresno became a full-blown urban city with all the issues the country has witnessed among urban communities. The Rodney King riots, though centered in LA, spilled over into urban neighborhoods across the nation, including Fresno. Fresno began to lose it’s soul.
During this time, the No Name Fellowship formed. The strength and uniqueness of this group was its inclusivity of multiple churches, business people, public officers, private company leaders, nonprofits, etc.
Simultaneously, other substantial groups sprang to life, impassioned for social transformation: Hope Now for Youth, One by One Leadership, Every Neighborhood Partnership, InterVarsity, Fresno Institute For Urban Leadership (FIFUL), the Pink House, Street Saints, and Youth for Christ; churches began getting much more involved holistically;ots of neighborhood groups were formed. The Fresno Business Council engaged, as well.
More recently, Central Valley Justice Coalition, No More Slumlords, and lots of other focused movements have emerged. Randy and H have witnessed the next generation taking hold of the needs of their city.
Twenty years later, these ideas are gaining grip in the younger generation. The current generation is so much more in tune with racial reconciliation, holistic ministry, love for the city. They are moving into tough neighborhoods and mentoring people. They see their career as critical to transforming the city, whether that career is church-based, public-centered, or private enterprise.
This is the environment that has birthed the City Summit movement. The summit has created a new normal, where Christ-centered community renewal is the new normal. Structures have grown and exist for people to join the movement in a plethora of ways. It is practical, not just theory.
Creating motivation and perspective to get people to take onramps to involvement continues to be the goal of city summit. City Summit started with about 10 to 15 people going to the national CCDA conference every year, many of whom decided to create a small, regional conference. The idea was to begin to think about community development in a standard way.
In 2008, about 50 people came together. The second year, 70 people gathered to expand the movement. And 100 people attended the third year. In 2013, it had grown to almost 400.
- In 2008, CCDA founder John Perkins answered the question, “What is CCD?” at Cornerstone Church.
- In 2009, Craig Wong spoke about the role of the church and Glen Kehrein addressed reconciliation. The location was Westside Church of God.
- In 2010, Lula Ballton discussed a practioner approach to community development and Aaron Graham illuminated immigration issues and the plight of vulnerable people. The location was Powerhouse and First Pres
- In 2011, CCDA President Noel Castellanos and Crissy Brooks were the keynote speakers. The location was The ROCK Church.
- In 2012, Jonathan Brooks was the keynote speaker at Central Community Church.
- In 2013, John Perkins returned to talk about CCD at the Christian Temple.
- In 2014, Soong-Chan Rah spoke on lament at Fresno First Baptist.
The City Summit movement is now at the point of being a stewardship issue. The original planners gained momentum, but it is now owned by a new generation. Movements are fragile. They need stewardship. Maintaining momentum requires surveying the landscape.
In order to be good stewards, 3 key questions to ask at this point in the movement include:
- Where should this go from here?
- Who are the key leaders that need encouragement?
- Who do we need to send to CCDA National?
Thanks to Randy and H for sharing their recollections and for their visionary leadership and guidance for the heart of the city of Fresno.