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Community from Scratch

How one pastor is building Christian community where it doesn't come easy.

In the shadow of inner-city crack houses, Eugene Rivers preaches a radical gospel.

It's the same message he preaches to Boston politicians, gangs, and the Christian Coalition: love, radical love.

Educated on the streets and at Harvard, Rivers's journey from gang member to minister began when he was confronted with his own mortality while listening to Billy Graham on the radio. Rivers, 49, now pastors Azusa Christian Community in south Boston. His work among gangs was recently a Newsweek cover story.

While in Chicago for a conference on violence prevention, Rivers talked with Leadership editors Marshall Shelley and Eric Reed about establishing community in a tough environment.

What have gangs taught you about community?
The gangs in Boston challenged the clergy about the absence of community in the church. The church had so failed to model an attractive and viable vision of community that children had to create their own.

They'll go somewhere to find fraternity in the midst of a crisis. ...

April
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