This Is Our City Launches Detroit Coverage
This Is Our City is a special project of Christianity Today focusing on Christians who are working to contribute to the common good of their cities, from big cities to small towns. Since 2011, the "City Team"—Andy Crouch, Katelyn Beaty, Nate Clarke, Christy Tennant Krispin, Roxanne Wieman, and Skye Jethani—have been traveling all over the US to find and tell great stories of innovative ways Christians are helping their cities flourish.
The project is especially focused on six cities in America, with additional "seventh city" stories being told from other cities, both national and international. In each of the six primary cities, we devote several months, traveling to the cities, meeting with leaders, hosting "Listening Sessions," interviewing and following our subjects around with video cameras trying to capture the essence of their contributions. The first city was Portland, then we were in Richmond, followed by Phoenix, and, most recently, Detroit (see Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Christianity Today magazine).
In each of the six cities, to celebrate the stories we have found and honor those who are working on behalf of their communities, we host a celebration coinciding with the release of the print issue focusing on that city. We invite everyone who participated in listening sessions, as well as a broader audience of friends, spreading the word via Facebook, Twitter, word-of-mouth, and existing church networks, to join the City Team for an evening of celebration, reflection, conversation, and insight.
On Tuesday night, 22 January, we held our launch event for This Is Our City's coverage of Detroit. Held in the Kresge Court at the iconic Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Celebration gathered 250 people, church, civic, and nonprofit leaders from the city and suburbs. The crowd was marvelously diverse, possibly the most racially diverse group of people ever gathered by Christianity Today and including a wide range of ages and stations in life, reflecting the rich diversity of the city. "We wanted the church in Detroit to know that we celebrated their perseverance, their passion, and their influence on the city," said Andy Crouch, This Is Our City's executive producer, and if the extraordinary enthusiasm in the room and subsequent feedback on Twitter and via email were any indication, we accomplished our goal.
The program, like all our launch events, featured a series of short interviews with subjects of our reporting and several videos we've produced, and also included a rousing final short address by one of our key partners in Detroit, Pastor Christopher Brooks from Evangel Ministries. Local hip-hop artist Mahogany Jones, who last year toured Africa as one of twelve "musical ambassadors" chosen by the US State Department, performed with her band as well, including a song she wrote especially for the event. Additional presenters included Dwight Gibson of The Exploration Group, who served as a producer for This Is Our City: Detroit, as well as Detroit metro residents Bob Shirock (EACH Network), Matt Schaar and Diallo Smith (Drive Table Tennis Club), and Dr. Sabrina Black. Andy Crouch and Katelyn Beaty also spoke.
Some of the encouraging feedback from the event came via Twitter and email. @DetroitPolitics wrote, "The @CT_city team showed us tonight how journalism about Detroit should be done … Truth with hope. Thank you." A Detroit pastor wrote, "Thanks for your faithful commitment to telling the story of Detroit with grace and truth. Last night was a beautiful celebration of God's continuing work of making His Kingdom come to Detroit as it is in Heaven. Thank you for stewarding all of your gifts on behalf of that Kingdom." These sentiments were echoed by others as well.
As we continue to pursue reporting on ways Christians are contributing to the flourishing of their cities, particularly in Silicon Valley and, finally, New York City, we are bolstered by the encouragement of a highly energized, hopeful, celebratory event in Detroit.