Monday, March 19, 2007

Life in the city

If you've been interested in city/urban planning or living or culture, then you may have heard about "new urbanism" -- the movement of people out of suburban gulags into the vibrancy of city neighborhoods that are within walking (or cycling) distance of shops, restaurants, and local establishments.

This week, World Magazine gives us a whole issue dedicated to Christian opportunities in new urbanism. This issue includes profiles 10 cities that are undergoing urban renewal; gives a short review of 5 major books on urban life and planning (including the over-ballyhooed Rise of the Creative Class); and talks about various Christian ministries that are doing ministry in urban settings (including Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC and La Fonderie, a Parisian artists community). I'm not done with the issue yet, but I'll be chewing it over greatly for the next couple of days.

Then, as if by coincidence (I prefer the term Providence), I check Rod Dreher's blog to see this link to Common Task, a group of Christian thinkers who are working on a distinctively Christian way of viewing new urbanism -- they talk about the idea of "liturgical cities" -- and they provide this challenging quote "The celebrated architect Christopher Alexander has written in his recently-published "The Nature of Order" that only by making things as a gift to God can we learn to create again an environment that is beautiful and alive, that allows us to be human." Sadly they look to the root of the problem as free market capitalism rather than as the human sin nature. Even so, they ask provocative questions that are worth wrestling with.

Soli Deo Gloria