The urban missiologist Francis DuBose passed away on June 20th this year, during my blog fast, so I didn’t mention it. I remember him as a poet, an activist, a lover of the poor, the guy who added his Jesus revolution books from the 1970s to my library, and the teacher that brought the word “missional” into common usage. I worked with him in the 1990’s in San Francisco at the Page Street Center. Last year I visited him in his “hotel” [a nursing home in SF] to interview him on video. More info and the video are here.
The word “missional” was first used, as far as we know, in 1883 but was glossed over until Dr DuBose revived it exactly a century later with his book God Who Sends(1983). When I told him that his use of the word “missional” started something that was now a global acceptance of the word, I could see that he and his wife were absolutely ecstatic and totally surprised. It was a real gift for me to be there in that moment.
“Missional” as a term that taps into the Missio Dei has done great service to the church. It has helped keep the ’emerging church’ on track during the early part of this decade and has given some of us a vocabulary that has been widely accepted and used. But there has also been abuse of the word and now there is talk that it has run its course. Some have suggested the word is now dead and meaningless and we should move on. There is some truth to that, as I have blogged about before, and now that Francis DuBose has gone, I am happy to let the word pass on also.
But even if the word passes on, Francis DuBose will be remembered for his lasting contributions to urban ministry, and his way of expressing it. Here is one of his poems, selected by GGBTS in their remembrance of their famous Professor. I hope the DuBose family will forgive me for adding some of my photos to compliment the text . . .
I CHOOSE THE CITY, by Francis DuBose
I choose the city…
Not simply to live in it,
to see it,
to hear it;
But to touch it;
yes, to embrace it,
to hold it,
To feel the wild glory of its
To move over its wide,
To stand stilled and sobered
at the nowhere of its dead-end streets,
To be trapped with it in its
pain and problems,
To be at once chilled by its ill
and covered with its confetti.
I choose the city because I choose God,
Because I choose humanity,
Because I choose the divine-human
The struggle which will be won
Not in the serene path through
meadow and wood,
among the bees and birds, and flowers,
But in the city street
Made by the hand of man
Through the gift of God–
Main Street: the final battle field,
The scene of the ultimate struggle,
Where man chooses right
Because he is free to choose wrong.
Babylon, dirty and daring–
The New Jerusalem!
Francis DuBose, Mystic on Main Street, Chapel Hill, NC: Professional Press, 1993, pp. 78, 79.