I Am Urban

30 Aug 2019

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Urban’?
Graffiti? Street culture? Dance music? The word ‘urban’ is defined as ‘relating to cities’. People who live in urban areas don’t live in ghettos, as is often mistakenly projected by the media; one of the key characteristics is that inhabitants in most urban areas have non-agricultural jobs.

Urban areas are often densely populated, highly developed and the centre of commerce and economics. A report from the United Nations highlighted that 68% of the world’s population are projected to live in urban areas by 2050.¹ Therefore, as we see more people moving into urban spaces, we will have to give more considerable attention to urban areas as a place for community outreach. At the end of 2018, the ‘I am urban’ initiative between Adventist Development and Relief Agency-UK and Adventist Community Services (British Union Conference) was established to encourage the millennial generation to connect with the General Conference’s vision for Total Member Involvement.‘I am urban’ exists to mobilise members to be the voice of the marginalised, oppressed and forgotten members of our society, especially in our urban areas. In other words, we see their humanity, voice their need for justice and follow up that voice with practical service.After trying to understand why more people were moving into an urban environment, a few patterns and trends began to emerge. Firstly, it is a place of refuge: density creates safety for many vulnerable groups, including immigrants, the poor, and those living by themselves. Urban spaces have more crime, yet you will find high concentrations of these groups, because it allows them the opportunity to stabilise their lives.
The second reason is that urban spaces are cultural and creative hotspots: density also creates diversity. This diversity allows humans to express their culture in a variety of ways, and to expose others to that culture in enriching ways.God created us in His image, and this is evident in our human interactions. We were made to live in a community, just as God lives in community. We were also created to explore our vibrant and creative potential, just as we acknowledge God as the ultimate Creator. However, sin has distorted that image. Where there is diversity we also find racism, classism and inequality. The presence of creative expression has allowed greed, exploitation, overworking and pride.It is from this that the idea of ‘I am urban’ came about. ‘I am urban’ exists to mobilise each local church to recognise our call to urban spaces. We invite all our churches to become involved in social justice and support God-centred change to society through loving service.

Written by: Max McKenzie-Cook – Pastor, Doctoral Candidate (Urban Ministries), Lead Champion (Urban Ministries)

In 2017, the partnership between ADRA-UK and ACS offered grants to local churches. In 2018, as the ‘I am urban’ initiative was being established, thirty churches received funding from the ADRA-UK Appeal through their 10% reversion scheme. It is estimated this year that the ‘I am urban’ initiative will give funding to more than 130 SDA congregations specifically for their community outreach programmes, and to encourage millennial involvement in these outreach projects.