The Urban Village

When the Church responds to Gentrification

A recent Metropolis article opened by asking, “If Jesus were alive today, would he be a property developer?” The question is being asked by a writer who is recognizing the Church’s behavior as a reflection of Jesus’ character. Because churches are partnering with developers to create new places of worship and community service, the writer identified this as a potential testimony of who Jesus would be today. It isn’t clear if this writer fully grasps the implications of what she asked, but her question says something about the work of gospel-preaching and ministry. To quote another journalist, “Shouldn’t it be our moral responsibility to finally make it our city’s top priority to aggressively rebuild parts of [the city] that in some ways our city leaders have had a hand in helping destroy?”[1]

Dr. A.R. Bernard and his congregation have answered yes to this second question, choosing to address the gentrification of Brooklyn, New York with an astonishing development plan. In partnership with a developer and working with the city’s existing policies, the Christian Cultural Center is working an aggressive plan to build an 11-acre Urban Village equipped with a performing arts center, local retailers, affordable housing, and everything necessary for a walkable community. The project, an estimated $1.2 billion endeavor, will begin as early as next year. Speaking at the 100 Cities Summit, Dr. Bernard said this about the project:

“In cities like New York, there is gentrification taking place. Gentrification could be racial, it could be economic. For us it is economic. Individuals who are working class or in a certain income range are being squeezed out. We wanted to respond by creating affordable housing. We didn’t want to do what has typically been done over the last 70, 80 years in America and that is warehousing people with one income, which perpetuates poverty and perpetuates inner city condition.”[2]

We sat down with Dr. Bernard to discuss the Urban Village, asking him about the way the project developed for the church, how they chose their partnerships, and how this project could be replicated. At a fundamental level, this church is making something new of the city, choosing to shape a large section in response to the broken structures of New York and as a testimony of the kind of community that is promised in Scripture. In this way, the Urban Village is a new World Outspoken, a story told in concrete buildings that point to what Jesus is doing in the city. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

About Dr. A. R. Bernard

A.R. Bernard enjoyed a successful career in finance before opening a small storefront church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. From a handful of members the church has blossomed into the Christian Cultural Center (CCC), one of America’s fastest-growing churches with 40,000 members.

Considered by many to be the most influential and respected Christian in America, A.R. Bernard has been featured on Fox News, CNN, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, CBS News, and BET — and has his own weekly show on Daystar TV. Revered as the “Power Pastor” by The New York Times, Pastor Bernard was recently a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul Sunday, where he discussed his bestselling book, Four Things Women Want from a Man.

Footnotes


[1] Mark Konkol, “Rahm Is Right: We Have a Moral Obligation To Save City From Itself,” DNAinfo.com, November 05, 2015, Accessed December 16, 2015, http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20151105/auburn-gresham/mayor-emanuel-is-right-we-have-moral-obligation-save-city-from-itself.

[2] “AR Bernard’s Brooklyn Megachurch to Build $1.2 Billion Housing Community to Address Gentrification,” accessed December 28, 2018, https://www.christianpost.com/news/ar-bernards-brooklyn-megachurch-to-build-12-billion-housing-community-to-address-gentrification.html.

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