Resistance Narratives: Shelter Theology
Today I facilitated an adult Sunday School class discussion about “Resistance Narratives,” which is the fourth chapter of Susan J. Dunlap’s 2021 book, “Shelter Theology: The Religious Lives of People without Homes.” The ACE class at Caldwell Presbyterian Church in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, is studying this book in advance of a visit from the author, Dr. Susan Dunlap, who lives in Durham and is on the faculty at the Duke Divinity School. Here are the slides I shared during our lesson today, along with a 30 minute summary video I recorded this afternoon after class, to share with members who were not present today as well as others online.
I created over 40 annotated photos of quotations and excerpts from Chapter 4 in preparation for today’s lesson and discussion, but just talked about six of them during class. All of those annotated photos are available in this Flickr album.
Caldwell Presbyterian Church of Charlotte is in the midst of a multi-year project they call “Easter’s Home,” which involves the conversion of the church’s old education building into a 21 apartment, permanent supportive housing facility for single adults in the Charlotte community experiencing homelessness. The need for this type of affordable / supportive housing in the Charlotte urban area is tremendous. Around 3000 adults in Charlotte are homeless each night.
After summarizing and highlighting key points from the chapter in today’s class, I shared some personal connections to the ideas and themes Dr. Dunlap raised. I talked about Positive Tomorrows, which is the non-profit and school serving families in Oklahoma City experiencing homelessness where Shelly (my wife) worked and taught for 4 years. I also shared an audio podcast Shelly recorded with her students in November 2015 at Positive Tomorrows, talking about things for which students are grateful. I didn’t have enough time to fully play the podcast in class today, but I did include it in the 30 minute summary video linked above.
In the after-class video recording, I also mentioned Storychasers and the different types of digital stories highlighted on the Storychasers “Examples” page. I did not mention, but probably should have) the “Christian Digital Storytelling” examples page I created recently. I think there are good possibilities for the ways members of the Caldwell Presbyterian community might use digital storytelling in the weeks and months ahead both to educate their own congregation about the complex issues involving people experiencing homelessness, their needs, and the respectful (as well as safe) ways members of the church community can act in service and support of these marginalized members of our community.
The last thing I will note is that I was able to share a little of my own experiences reading and studying the pedagogy of Paulo Freire, whose ideas about empowering and transforming the minds and lives of the most marginalized and oppressed members of our communities connect directly to the themes and invitations of Susan Dunlap in her book, “Shelter Theology..” In addition to studying John Dewey for a semester with Professor Doug Simpson at Texas Tech University when I was working on my PhD, I also studied Paulo Freire for a semester with Dr. Simpson. It was a challenging and motivating experience, and continues to shape my thoughts as well as aspirations on the subjects of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice.