Our Trespasses: White Churches and the Taking of American Neighborhoods

Product Details
$30.00  $27.90
Fortress Press
Publish Date
8.9 X 5.98 X 0.79 inches | 0.92 pounds

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About the Author

Greg Jarrell is a cultural organizer with QC Family Tree in the Enderly Park neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina. He works with words and music to impact housing and neighborhood justice issues. Jarrell writes about theology and history and co-leads Carolina Social Music Club, a popular jazz band. He and his wife, Helms, are ordained ministers and are raising two sons.

Chanequa Walker-Barnes is professor of practical theology and pastoral counseling at Columbia Theological Seminary. She is the author of Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength and has written over a dozen articles in theology and psychology.

Our Trespasses is a powerful and provocative witness that compels white congregations and denominational communities to think deeply and confessionally about our past while also summoning us to commit to a much different kind of future. How have our theological language and ministry practices allowed us to participate in and even benefit from urban renewal projects that have decimated Black neighborhoods and congregations? How have we been blind to our neighbors and the systems and structures that hold them in bondage? How can we now use our words, our witness, and our properties to repair the devastations of many generations while also seeking a future that is just? Just as Our Trespasses confronts us with haunted urban landscapes around us, it also offers the kind of challenge to be expected as the Holy Spirit convicts, reproves, and summons us to a life worthy of the gospel. --Paul Baxley, executive coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Because Greg Jarrell stands somewhere (in the physical place of Charlotte, North Carolina), practices deep neighboring (tending to joys and sorrows through screen doors and on back porches), and navigates his life by a theological compass (mapping to biblical narratives that provide a robust understanding of our place in history), he reads his city's urban social architecture spiritually--demanding both transformative justice and unstrained mercy. While many have lauded and critiqued urban renewal movements in the US, few have looked deeply into its impact on Southern cities. Fewer still have unpacked the role white Protestant Christianity has played as a driver in city planning, with inevitable race-based schisms. As James Baldwin said in 1963, ""Urban renewal means Negro removal."" Jarrell's engaging storytelling, fresh historical research, and commitment to preserving the dignity of all the characters (living and dead) draw readers deep into questions about where we live, who lives around us, and what ghosts of ""communities past"" are just beyond our sightline. Jarrell reveals where the religious perspectives of the characters expand or contract in this recovery of the religious history of urban renewal, with a particular focus on white churches in Charlotte. Additionally, he offers fresh scriptural interpretation on Jesus' landowner parables and into the healing encounters that engage spirits that silence and bind. This is a necessary read for city planners, church leaders, real estate developers, social historians, community organizers, and those who believe the Bible speaks urgently to our present condition. --Rose Marie Berger, senior editor, Sojourners magazine

Our Trespasses uses a fascinating story about one family, one piece of land, and one church to get us to think about housing inequalities in the US. What if we could point to the people and institutions who are responsible? Would we be brave enough to hold them accountable? Would they be courageous enough to hold themselves accountable? The book is sociological in its conception, historical in its details, and theological in its profoundness. And most impressively, it is deeply personally reflective. To use the words of Charles Mills, Greg Jarrell is a white renegade and a race traitor who has thought a great deal about resisting and refusing the racial contract. Our Trespasses is a one-of-a-kind book, an enlightening read. --Joseph C. Ewoodzie, Vann Associate Professor of Racial Justice, Department of Sociology, Davidson College