City Journal, Winter 1993.
Upon This Rock (HarperCollins, $22.50) is a sourcebook for thinking about the black inner city. Not for understanding it, nor for solving its problems—this is more than one may reasonably ask of any book—but for thinking about what is going on, in a more realistic way.
At its simplest level, Upon This Rock is an account of a year in the life of the St. Paul Community Baptist Church in the slums of East Brooklyn. It opens with the Christmas service of 1989, and then describes the lives of the pastor, the Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood, and a number of church members over the course of the next year. It is written novelistically, which makes for a highly readable book; the author, a white New York Times reporter named Samuel Freedman, is a natural storyteller.