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As far back as the late 19th century, when Walter Rauschenbusch worked out his Social Gospel in the slums of New York, the urban ministry has been the classic ordination-of-fire for young clerical zealots. But despite the problems, opportunities for white ministers are fading. For one thing, many black communities no longer want white clergymen, friendly or not. For another, there are more and more radicalized seminarians competing for ghetto ministries. Now, as interest in parish assignments begins to go up again, seminary graduates are being forced to look to the suburbs, where many innovative ministers have proved that there is opportunity aplenty.

Challenging the Affluent

Northeast of Los Angeles, amid the rolling hills Presbyterian of Minister suburban Gary La Demarest, Canada, 43, speaks wryly of his mission. "In the '60s, we saw ourselves out there leading the army magnificently, but when we looked back, the army wasn't there." Now he soldiers quietly by employing his affluent congregation in the task of finding low-cost housing for less prosperous families. The congregation recruits bankers, mortgage lawyers and other professionals to help low-income families find and purchase FHA homes. The congregation commits itself to advise and assist such families for the life of the mortgage.

A more comprehensive example of religious revival in the suburbs is the Community of Christ the Servant in Downers Grove, Ill., a booming residential district just west of Chicago. With the blessing of President Robert J. Marshall of the Lutheran Church in America, the Rev. Jack Lundin, 43, set up headquarters in a rickety barn and house opposite a new shopping center a year ago. "Not a church, but a community," according to its pastor, it has 160 members who have "accepted the covenant" and 100 or so more who attend with some regularity. The members are busy, but not with the usual parochial committee work. Wednesday nights, adults meet for "content" sessions on spiritual and social questions while children gather for freewheeling classes on the arts. On Thursdays, adults gather T-group style for community problem solving. On Sundays, worship services usually begin with ten or 15 minutes of informal discussion among the congregation, followed by liturgy and music that are often composed by Lundin, formerly a professional musician, or a member of the congregation. The music for Christmas was written by a Jewish friend who works for Playboy.

U.S. clergymen have no monopoly on imagination. In British Columbia, Bishop Fergus O'Grady founded "the Frontier Apostolate," in which 174 volunteers serve as a kind of Far North VISTA for Catholic and non-Catholic alike in O'Grady's farflung diocese. In Lima, Peru, 100 young priests drafted a proposal of revolutionary social reforms, calling for the church to set the example. Surprisingly, Juan Cardinal Landázuri Ricketts moved out of his mansion and into a modest working class district. In Isolotto, outside Florence, suspended priest Don Enzo Mazzi (TIME, Dec. 27, 1968) is still holding his open-air Masses in the piazza for hundreds of worshipers.

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