Smoke from the 1992 civil unrest was still darkening the skies of Los Angeles when five pastors from neighborhood ELCA congregations sat down to study Scripture and pray.
Their communities had been rocked by riots following the Rodney King verdict. What, they wondered, was the Lutheran response to a city in anguish?
Their answer came out of the book of Nehemiah, where God called for a new city in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem.
And out of that conversation New City Parish was born, rooted in a desire to address the underlying causes of inner-city violence: poverty, racism and injustice.
Today New City Parish is a nonprofit urban coalition of nine ELCA congregations serving south Los Angeles and neighboring Inglewood and Compton.
The goal is to share the gospel and forge relationships in support of more just and sustainable communities.
Grants from the ELCA churchwide organization and synods provide critical funding.
Scott Fritz, New City executive director and pastor at Chapel of Peace Lutheran Church, Inglewood, sums up their mission.
“We don’t just hand out food and a blessing and walk away. We sit down with our neighbors and ask questions. What are their real needs and concerns? And how can we better address them?”
The benefits of this intentional partnership can also be seen closer to home.
“Some of our congregations may have been forced to close their doors had we not banded together,” he notes.
“There is strength in numbers and in doing things together so we can share resources. When times get tough and things get scarce, we have to explore new ways to keep congregations alive and thriving.”
The ELCA’s commitment to diversity is a huge gift to their ministry, Scott believes.
“We’re dedicated to that vision and we want to be the answer.”