I recently had the privilege of meeting Paul Sparks of the Parish Collective when he was visiting the East Coast. My son Ephraim and I drove the two and half hours to Richmond, where he was meeting with Dave Cooper of the Drew University Communities of Shalom Initiative, Wendy McCaig of Embrace Richmond, and others at the Richmond Hill urban retreat center (it was also greatly inspiring to hang out with Dave and Wendy as we surveyed their work in the local community). As we arrived and were about to enter the retreat center I looked up and saw Jeremiah 29:7, inscribed on the building, which says: “Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you, for in it’s welfare, you will find your welfare“. From what I understand, another translation of the words ‘peace’ and ‘welfare’ is “shalom” which is a Hebrew word that puts forth the idea of “health, harmony and wholeness”.
I believe this understanding of ‘shalom’ as wholeness – as an interwoven whole that “has nothing missing, nothing broken’ – is central to how we as Christians live out the kingdom of GOD that Jesus spoke about and demonstrated. Shalom is a restoration of relationships that were broken by sin. It is this ongoing work of mission and reconciliation that I believe is characterizing a new generation of holistic, missional ministries in our time. After all, if GOD “took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood” shouldn’t we leave the safety of our church buildings and start embodying the Gospel in the communities GOD has placed us in?
One of these new place-based, ministries of shalom-seeking is the Parish Collective out of the Seattle/Tacoma, Washington area, who are seeking to help cultivate a national shift in the Church at large. The Other Journal, an online magazine that explores the “intersections of theology and culture”, has recently begun to partner with the Parish Collective and produced this brilliant little video (see below) that gives a short introduction of their work in “seeking shalom”. I could say much more but I think the video is enough to whet your appetite.