Archives For Urban


Eric JacobsenThe City of God in our Neighborhoods

A Feature Review of

The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment

Eric Jacobsen

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2012.
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Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Eugene Peterson paraphrases John 1:14 in this way: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”

This vernacular translation neatly captures the potency of the incarnation as recorded by the Apostle John, while also placing it within an equally latent scale: the neighborhood. In fact, picking up the narrative of incarnation and reconciliation with Jacques Ellul, the neighborhood takes on its full significance:

But because Christ is Savior and Lord of both creation and mankind, he is also Savior and Lord of man’s works. In him, God adopts man and his works… He has chosen to dwell in it. And just as the man living in the city is directly subject to the spirit of the city, now those who dwell in it are in communion with God, for he has truly assumed it… and has transfigured it. For even in the resurrection, God does not shatter men’s hopes. Rather, he fulfills them there… And all this happens in the New Jerusalem, so as to forever link man’s work with Christ’s… Man’s version of the incarnation finds an eternal home. (The Meaning of the City, 177)

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Timothy Keller - Center ChurchThe Entirely New and Entirely Familiar

A Review of

Center Church : Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

Timothy Keller

Hardback: Zondervan, 2012.
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Reviewed by Michaela Flack

A few years back, I found myself serving as a youthwork coordinator at a tiny urban church in the United Kingdom. Having lived there for three years, while completing my Bachelor’s degree, I was excited to find myself finally serving in a church full-time, ready to move into my “urban ministry calling”, listening to Tim Keller’s sermons on a Gospel Vision for the City on the bus ride to work each day. I announced to my pastor that I was planning on moving into the area where our church was (a neighborhood notorious for being the poorest public housing complex in all of the UK) in order to live and work and minister. To my surprise, I was strongly discouraged, borderline commanded from my superior not to do so. It wasn’t safe, he said. So at the end of each day, I went back to my city apartment in the (apparently safe) student area of town, and he went back to his suburban neighborhood. Six months later, with mutual agreement, I left the position and moved back to the States.

Fast forward 6 years. In my research for Tim Keller’s new book, Center Church, I took a look around its promotional website, which includes a video book trailer. Press play, and it’s hard to not be impressed by whichever media art department put this together. Continue Reading…


Today is the birthday of philosopher and social critic, Ivan Illich (1926-2002)

Below is a two-part video of a 1984 talk that he gave based on his book

H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness.

Ivan Illich

Paperback: Marion Boyars, 2000.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Other Illich resources on the ERB Site:

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Book Giveaway - Everyday MissionsOur Latest Book Giveaway…

We’re giving away 5 copies of :

Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World.
Leroy Barber.

Paperback: IVP/ Likewise, 2012.


Enter to win a Free copy of this book (It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!) :

NOTE: You may enter to win once per day as long as the contest is running…
(Additional entries only need to complete steps #2 and #3.)

1) Receive our free weekly online edition via email – or – LIKE our Facebook page (LGT: More info… )

2) Post the following message on your blog, Facebook Page, or on Twitter:

I just entered to win one of 5 copies of EVERYDAY MISSIONS by Leroy Barber from @ERBks! You can too:

3) Leave a comment below noting which option you chose for #1 **and** a link to your post for #2 before 12AM ET on Friday August 24, 2012.
(Leaving a comment is essential as we will draw the giveaway winners from among the comments left.)


We will draw the winners at random after the Book Giveaway ends, and will notify them within a week.


Urban Rivers - Castonguay, Evenden, eds.The Tense Marriage of Rivers and Urban Space

Urban Rivers: Remaking Rivers, Cities, and Space in Europe and North America

Edited By: Stephane Castonguay and Matthew Evenden

Paperback: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Sam Edgin

Rivers have flowed like arteries and veins across the continents for millennia. They have carried the lifeblood of societies, given paths to the virus of wars, and generated countless measures of energy. Most every major city has grown alongside a riverbank: Paris on the Seine, Washington D.C. on the Potomac, London on the Thames, Moscow on the Moskva, and Beijing on the Yongding, Chaobai, and Hai, to name a few. They funnel transportation, food, shipping and trade into and out of the urban metropolises that serve as hubs for our societies. Rivers globally are tied intrinsically into the urban areas that lie on their banks.

However, the development of these urban centers has not always been sustainable for their waterways. The large concentrations of people mixed with rapidly growing industrialization during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were unkind to river systems, as was the realization that rivers were rather adept at disposing waste. Year and years of disuse resulted in heavy pollution and contamination. Rivers stank, were undrinkable, and even began to lose clear passageways as the channels filled with refuse. Much of this harm has begun to be reversed due to the environmental impetus of the mid-to-late 20th century. This shift is fortunate, as the future development of our cities leans dependently not only on the health of our rivers, but in the way the cities are built around them and the resources are managed, as Stephane Castonguay and Matthew Evenden explore with the articles they have collected in Urban Rivers: Remaking Rivers, Cities, and Space in Europe and North America.

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Breaking Through Concrete - Hanson / MartyPropelling Us into Vacant Lots

A Feature Review of

Breaking Through Concrete: Building an Urban Farm Revival.

David Hanson / Edwin Marty

Hardback: U of California Press.
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The City of Saint Louis, where I live and garden, owns roughly one third of the property in Saint Louis. Eight thousand properties are abandoned, and 11,000 lots sit empty. As people moved out of the city and into the ‘burbs, hundreds of properties fell vacant, taxes weren’t paid, neighborhoods were blighted; now the city faces budget shortfalls, in part because a third of the land in the city goes untaxed. St. Louis is just one example among many: Birmingham has 20,000 acres of open land, Philadelphia 70,000, and Detroit 100,000 empty lots. This translated into thousands of acres of ragweed and Johnson grass which these cities have to pay to mow.

Breaking Through Concrete offers an alternative to the apocalyptic urban landscape of post-industrial American cities like St. Louis. The book profiles twelve urban farms from across the country which have re-purposed urban plots to provide healthy, clean food to their communities. The book joins a growing collection of literature (such as Urban Farm Handbook, Farm City, Your Farm in the City, and The Urban Homestead, all published since 2010) and documentaries (such as Urban Roots, 2011) on urban farming, indicating a shift in the way city-folks are regarding their land. Continue Reading…


Breaking Through Concrete - D Hanson, E MartyAn excerpt from

Breaking Through Concrete: Building An Urban Farm Revival.

David Hanson / Edwin Marty

Hardback: U of California Press.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Watch for our feature review by Alden Bass later this week…

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Bird on Fire - Andrew RossSustainability in the Valley of the Sun

A Review of

Bird on Fire:

Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City.

Andrew Ross.

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2011.
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Reviewed by Tim Høiland.

When Andrew Ross first came to the Phoenix, he was interested in learning what local artists were doing to revitalize downtown, a desert city with an urban core that, to many urbanists, leaves much to be desired. No city exists in a vacuum, however, and Ross soon came to the conclusion that to understand Phoenix he had to understand the story of the other cities and sprawling suburbs throughout the valley. It was through this research that he concluded that the Phoenix metro area — which includes nine cities with populations of 100,000 or more — was, as he puts it in the subtitle, “the world’s least sustainable city.”

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“Built-in Opportunities for
Human Relationships, Health, and Flourishing

A Review of
Cities for People.

Jan Gehl.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Cities for People.
Jan Gehl.
Hardback: Island Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In a city like mine, a story which is typical of many US cities has happened: built over the last 200 years, emptied out since the 1960s, and now making a few steps to revitalize the health of what makes cities great; there are hopeful moves of homes rehabbed and occupied, small businesses open, narrow bike stripes painted. And like other cities, we’ve gotten on board with the ‘greening’ of the city – thousands of new trees, some green roofs and rainwater collectors, and small but productive gardens.

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“Toward a Constructive Conversation

A Review of
Two New Books on the Church and Hip-Hop

Reviewed by Adam P. Newton.

hiphop redemption -WatkinsHip-Hop Redemption:
Finding God
in the Rhythm and the Rhyme
Ralph Basui Watkins
Paperback: Baker Books, 2011
Buy now:
[ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]


Beyond the Four Walls:
The Rising Ministry and
Spirituality of Hip-Hop

Walter Hidalgo
Paperback: AuthorHouse, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon ]
[ Kindle ]

Beyond the Four Walls - HidalgoI am a white male in his early 30’s. I listen to lots of hip-hop. I am a follower of Christ who is part of an Episcopal church in Houston, Texas. It might surprise you to learn that those three statements are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I’m rather proud of my seemingly contradictory stature in each of those three communities, as I feel it gives me a bit of particular insight into the arguments, cases, and claims that these two authors make in their respective books about hip-hop and the Church. Do I claim to be any sort of authority on hip-hop culture? Far from it, but I do know what it’s like to feel misunderstood and marginalized by a community because you represent the vaguely tolerated “other.

Both of these books seek to discuss why hip-hop is disdained by the greater whole of Christendom, yet present different ideas and cases for why it shouldn’t ignored any longer, especially by serious men and women of faith. With Watkins, we hear the tale of an accomplished theologian and professor (who also happens to be a DJ in his free time) speak clearly about plumbing the spiritual depths of hip-hop. And with Hidalgo, we read the story of a passionate youth minister seeking out cogent ways to integrate hip-hop culture with how the Church reaches out to urban communities.

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