(PNS) Presbyterians will soon have a new book study available to them. The Co-Moderators of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) have announced the title of their new year-long study, Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens in the Neighborhood When God Is at the Center.
The book is written by Noel Castellanos and explores his life and journey to become a Christian minister and leader. Born to parents of Mexican heritage, Castellanos shares the hardships of growing up, getting married, and raising a family in “tough neighborhoods.” He also shares insight into ministering to people on the margins of society.
“We were looking for a book that would address some of the why questions for the church. Why do we engage in justice ministries as a denomination? Why do we march on the streets in St. Louis? Why do we endorse the Poor People’s Campaign?” asked the Reverend Cindy Kohlmann. “I wanted a book that said it is a gospel mandate to rid ourselves of oppressive justice systems.”
“When Cindy suggested Where the Cross Meets the Street and shared her insights, I found the topics on point for rich, honest conversations of where and how God is calling us to be church with themes we both had been looking for in our first book suggestion,” said Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri. “Being that Rev. Castellanos’ book is autobiographical in nature, it provides an opportunity to engage in conversations that are personal and experiential. I appreciate the author’s honesty about his life, his roots, upbringing, and struggles.”
Cintrón-Olivieri says the book gives insights to the heart of a faith sibling; Castellanos’ personal journey to reconcile faith, word, and deed; and the process of discernment as he felt God’s call to serve through community engagement and development.
“My hope is that across the breadth of our denomination, we will be challenged by this book, that those of us who are evangelical in nature, will be challenged to embrace tangible works for justice where God has called us,” said Kohlmann. “Those of us on the progressive side of the church will be reminded that inviting people to faith in Jesus Christ is part of justice work too.”
Kohlmann said she wanted a book that clearly said that the church cannot do justice work without being followers of Jesus.
“As Christians, these two things are intertwined. We need the good news. We need Jesus,” she said. “In doing that, we need to follow the call of the prophets and Jesus’ example.”
Cintrón-Olivieri continued, “It is my hope that in reading about Castellanos’ experiences in his words and context, we might be compelled to share our own stories of discerning God’s call to being present and active in our communities in our own words and contexts as well. There is so much we can learn from each other.”
The Co-Moderators are leading a workshop at the upcoming Moderators’ Conference next month and Kohlmann will lead a conversation at the NEXT Conference in 2019. A study guide is being developed with an introduction to the book, guide questions, and related quotes from our confessional documents to lead the conversations. Other workshops are being planned as well as potential Facebook Live conversations.
“Our dream is to have face-to-face gatherings, at an affordable price, to engage in the topics presented in the book,” said Cintrón-Olivieri. “Hopefully, we can find a way to make that happen.”
Shortly after their election at the General Assembly in June, Cintrón-Olivieri and Kohlmann said they wanted to continue the book study launched by former Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), the Reverends Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston. During their term, the church focused on the books Waking Up White, by Debby Irving, and Always with Us? What Jesus Really Said about the Poor, by Liz Theoharis.
– By Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service