My professional career includes thirty-four years, 1974-2008, teaching courses in religion and sociology at Defiance College, Defiance, Ohio; four years, 1970-74, serving as pastor of Union Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Somonauk, Illinois; and two years, 1965-67, as a parish worker at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Chicago, Illinois.
Holy Trinity was a storefront congregation located at 29 East 47th Street, half a block from the center line of the Robert Taylor Homes, the largest public housing project in the United States at the time. Prior to this volunteer engagement I had lived an almost entirely white world. My entry into the black world of public housing residents and the surrounding black Southside of Chicago changed my life. Nothing could be taken for granted.
People took care of us. I was invited to dinner at a home in the projects after church one of my first Sundays. The interior of the apartment, the smells of chicken and other things cooking, all seemed familiar. After a blessing we started eating. What did awaken my consciousness was when I noticed everyone else had paused eating and was looking at me. Then someone gathered their courage to ask, “Please pass the knife.” I hadn’t noticed that I had the only place setting that included a knife. I came to know that family very well.
A female member of our volunteer team started a group for teenage girls. She met them all at the church the first night. When it came time for the next meeting, a half hour before the meeting, she heard a knock at her door. When she opened it she saw five or six girl from her group. She asked, “What are you doing here? Aren’t we supposed to meet at the church?” One of the girls said, “Lady we don’t walk anywhere by ourselves in this neighborhood and you aren’t going to either.” They continued to escort her to the church for their meeting weekly.
Friendship Press, affiliated with the National Council of Churches, published my board game Dignity in 1967. Dignity simulates life as experienced by residents of the Robert Taylor Homes Public Housing Project in Chicago, 1965-67. The activities of the Civil Rights campaign of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Chicago in the summer of 1966 also play a role in the game. The game sold over 10,000 copies before going out of print in the mid 1970s.
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Dr. Christiansen holds a B.A. degree in History with a minor in Mathematics from Valparaiso University (1965), a Master of Theology degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School (1968), and a Doctor of Ministry degree also from the University of Chicago Divinity School with a specialty in Ethics and Society (1970).
Since 2014, Dr. Christiansen has been very actively involved with the work of the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment (ICARE), a Church Based Community Organization in Jacksonville, Florida, described elsewhere on these pages.