Christians Engaging the Built Environment

Placemaking For the Common Good

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For three days in October, 2012 Christians helping to create the built environment such architects, planners, engineers, city managers, developers, elected officials, and community leaders convened in Buffalo NY for three simple but profound purposes.

• To meet, network, and help strengthen the community of fellow Christian professionals who share a vocational passion for the built environment and new urbanism.
• To analyze and assess the intellectual, spiritual, and missional landscape of the built environment and new urbanism as a project, and as a profession, from the perspective of Christian culture.  In other words, what are Christians as individuals, communities, and institutions, i.e., colleges and universities, churches, mission and para-church organizations, etc., doing to intentionally and constructively engage the built environment, and what are its strengths, weaknesses, and gaps?
• To develop an agenda participants can roll up their sleeves and commit to implementing that will strengthen the Christian community’s contribution to creating a built environment that is best suited to the flourishing of human community and ecological sustainability.

In summary, the purpose of the gathering was to help catalyze a community; assess present conditions related to the built environment; and shape an agenda gathered leaders committed to advancing together as a group and as individuals within their own spheres of influence.



One of the main goals of CEL’s inaugural symposium on New Urbanism was to produce an agenda of practical ways to advance New Urbanism within the Christian community.  The participants worked hard to formulate the following document.  CEL, and the participants who attended the symposium, are committed to walking this agenda forward.  We welcome other like-minded individuals and organizations who share our commitments, and who resonate with this agenda, to join us.

1. Publish an online inventory of resources for Christian New Urbanists.

2. Write and publish a statement issued by this group of Christian New Urbanists for the purpose of explicating the compelling socio-cultural and ecological good we believe is integral to New Urbanism, its points of coherence with Christian faith, and its appeal as a vocation for Christians.

3. Develop (with church input) a New Urbanism workshop and toolkit for churches and parachurch organizations.  This resource is intended for use by Christian New Urbanists to educate Christians and churches on urbanism, new urbanism, sustainable urbanism, suburban retrofits, a code for Christian communities and churches (see point #4), etc., and could be offered in conjunction with events such as CNU, CCDA, and other conferences and gatherings.

NOTE:  This agenda item has developed in CEL’s Project for Placemaking events (formally called ZipCode Calling). For more information click the icon below:

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4. Develop a form-based code for use by Christian communities and churches that can be used in their building projects to create community.

5. Work to reform denominational building guides along New Urbanist principles for good urbanism.

6. Set forth, then implement, an academic agenda that supports Christians working in New Urbanism.  Agenda items include:
a. Theological resources such as a bibliography and reading list.
b. A prioritized writing and publishing agenda focused on questions and issues concerning Christian New Urbanists.
c. A list of places worth visiting to experience and see good urbanism in practice.  This would also include “urbanism” inspired by believers and/or the church, e.g. Pienza, Chautauqua, etc.

7. Develop a vocational service where Christian students interested in, or studying architecture, planning, development and construction, etc., can learn about and become engaged in New Urbanism (including internships at firms engaged in New Urbanist work).  In addition to being online potential events where such a service could be offered are at conferences like Intervarsity’s Urbana and CCO’s Jubilee.

8. Develop outreach resources to denominations and like-minded groups (e.g., student groups, Habitat for Humanity, etc.), and communications that serve the Christian New Urbanist community (e.g., a website, Facebook group, media, etc.).

9. We agree to meet again on an annual basis.

CEL is grateful to the following individuals who comprised the planning committee for the symposium along with CEL’s director Dr. Chris Elisara:  Prof. Philip Bess (University of Notre Dame School of Architecture), Mike Watkins (architect & town planner), and Mel McGowan (Visioneering Studios).