Monday, August 29, 2005
Here is an article, from the Chicago Tribune, about religion's inroads into the New Urbanism conversation.
Eric Jacobsen speaks passionately about things like sidewalks and storefronts. But he's not an architect or developer. He's a Presbyterian pastor.
As Jacobsen sees it, city planning has an important influence on religious experience. He is an advocate for New Urbanism, the architecture movement that calls for interdependence among residents, with neighborhoods where shops and homes co-exist, streets that are pedestrian-friendly and parks that are gathering places for residents.
New Urbanism has become a mantra for those interested in restoring urban centers and reconfiguring suburban sprawl. Its designs have sprouted from new towns like Seaside, Fla., to redevelopment in existing places like Gaithersburg, Md., or West Palm Beach, Fla. The Congress for the New Urbanism started small 12 years ago and now has more than 2,300 architects, developers, planners and urban designers.
Now Christian leaders are adopting the movement. They say the philosophy behind New Urbanism is a possible antidote to the isolation experienced by many churches and Christians. Across the country, influential Christians are thinking theologically about urban design and applying its principles to the church. They advocate for New Urbanist concepts because they force people to share with one another, dwell among their neighbors and allow for a healthy exchange of ideas.
This is, I think, a good thing. And, it's good not just for the churches about which people like Jacobsen are concerned; it's also good for the New Urbanism. Too often, the New Urbanists have proceeded as if religion did not exist. Of course, Catholicism is home to a rich tradition of urbanism that -- maybe we can hope? -- the New Urbanists will learn to appreciate.