This study examines the consequential role that the inner city church has on impacting quality of life issues in a blighted community through re-engagement and transformational leadership. The study is conducted by examining the Eastside Neighborhood of Wilmington, Delaware, and seven historical churches in the community.
The Eastside community, as described by former residents, was once a thriving African American inner city community. From the 1900s to 1950s, the Eastside was described by these former residents as a progressively cohesive, prosperous, self-determining, and culturally proud neighborhood. One former resident compared the Eastside of Wilmington to Harlem, New York, during its renaissance period from the 1920s to 1930s. The churches in the community were also identified by these former residents as having a consequential role in the life of the community. Today, the Eastside is suffering from urban blight, and the current residents have identified the neighborhood churches as insular and non-engaging.
It is the hypothesis of this dissertation that through re-engagement, the church and the residents can partner to impact the quality of life in the neighborhood. Seven churches were selected for this study because of their tenured service and presence on the Eastside. A segment of the Eastside community was also identified because of their close proximity to the seven churches.
Chapter 1 discusses the ministry problem, audience, ministry opportunity, stakeholders, and the dissertation’s contribution to transformational leadership.
Chapter 2 reviews the context of the ministry problem by taking a look at the historical background of the Eastside community, which is accomplished by taking a historical overview of several key institutions and organizations in the Eastside neighborhood: Howard High School, African American owned and operated businesses, Eastside African American Churches, the significance and impact of the construction of the Dunleith community upon the Eastside African American population, Walnut Street YMCA, and the desegregation of public schools and housing. A geographical description of the neighborhood with relevant demographic details is also discussed. Finally to contextualize the data, a current description of the neighborhood is included.
Chapter 3 discusses the ministry problem and other possible solutions, which is essentially a book review encompassing the ministry problem through several authors and the synthesizing of five categorical areas: transformational leadership, the biblical imperative, urban missiology, partnerships between neighborhood churches, residents and community stakeholders, and incarnational ministries that engage and re-engage.
Chapter 4 discusses the ministry problem through biblical and theological reflection. The primary texts used are Jeremiah 29:4-7 and Matthew 5:13-16. As a result of these to texts, I explain the imperative that Jesus Christ has called the Christian church to be engaging and re-engaging.
Chapter 5 discusses the research methodology used in this study. The primary research was to examine the Eastside community through the historical lenses of the Oral Tradition Panel, current Eastside residents, and supportive statistical data currently describing the Eastside community. What the data show is that that there are seven Eastside churches who originally were active neighbors in the community; that there are currently two contrasting communities and cultures existing in the neighborhood (the church and the current Eastside resident); a review of the process that produced the disengagement of the neighborhood church, and the significance of re-engagement.
Chapter 6 examines the data and develops the solution of re-engagement using Bethel AME Church as a model.
Chapter 7 provides a summary, conclusion, and recommendation regarding the resolution of the ministry problem.