I'll admit upfront that this final contribution to my Urban Cincinnati series is more devoted to drawing conclusions from all these facts we've accumulated. Some call it urban renaissance. Others call it gentrification. Regardless of how you view it, people are moving back into the city.
Take a drive through Cincinnati's urban areas and you will see this firsthand. From downtown to Over-The-Rhine, Mount Auburn to Walnut Hills, new construction is everywhere. Extend to the south side of the Ohio River and the northern Kentucky shoreline is soon to be lined with high rise condominiums.
With an emerging generation who is no longer afraid of urban living, revitalized arts/culture scenes, workers growing weary of lengthening commutes, people are choosing to settle in downtown areas. While there will always be a dichotomy between "the haves" and "the have-nots" in the city, there will be fewer and fewer areas that are strictly ghetto. What we will begin to see is pockets of poverty in the midst of affluence (and vice versa) that will no longer be limited to urban areas. People, for the most part, are no longer limited by transportation as a decider of where they live and, let's face it, someone has to work at all those stores/restaurants in the 'burbs. This means encountering the impoverished will eventually be unavoidable, no matter where you live in relation to the city center.
This presents an incredible opportunity for churches that minister in the city. With rich and poor living next door to each other, there are few things that they have in common. It is our opinion that the message of Jesus levels the playing field between races and classes. The gospel does not discriminate. But more than anything else, our cities needs incarnational ministry.
Some urban churches have survived the changing landscape based upon their past. They became "family churches,"Â congregations that 2nd and 3rd generation Christians would continue to attend based upon their heritage. These attendersÂ may have migrated to the suburbs but still continue to trek every week back into the city in order to go to church (actually, this was my family's experience as we lived 20+minutes from our Price Hill church). While this keeps the church alive, it does not necessarily lead to impacting the neighborhood.
We need Christians to live in the city. We need believers to take ownership of these communities. In Cincinnati, neighborhood identity is huge; you can completely change contexts from Avondale to Walnut Hills (to East Walnut Hills) to Columbia Tusculum to Over-The-Rhine, so living thirty minutes away from your church in this city makes it difficult to truly understand the community in which you minister. The only way communities are going to be revitalized spiritually is if the people of God live there and dwell there.
And that's what we're about at Echo. We're in the city. We're striving hard to understand Cincinnati, where it's been and where it's going. And the better we know our mission field, the better we'll understand our mission.