2016 National Gathering Ignite: Gwen Brown & Tim Hughes

Gwen Brown, organizer with BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development) and Tim Hughes, associate pastor at Brown Memorial Park Ave Presbyterian Church, share their collaboration in the Baltimore Youth Organizing Project.

Re-Imagining Short Term Mission

At the 2016 National Gathering, Ellen Sherby led a workshop called “Helping or Hurting? Re-Imagining Short Term Mission.” Here you’ll find the description of her workshop and an associated resource on planning short-term mission projects.

Short-term mission trips are a mainstay for congregational mission, but often seem like “voluntourism” or a “mission-cation.” How can we, as mission leaders and church staff, shape our congregation’s understanding of mission trips, breaking from old models to embrace news ways of being in service together with others? Explore ways to engage in short-term mission with long-term vision and context-appropriate, mutual service. Learn about helpful trip-leader tools and resources.

HIV and Gospel Justice

At the 2016 National Gathering, Bertram Johnson and George Kerr led a workshop entitled “HIV and Gospel Justice.” Below you will find the description of their workshop and a PDF of their Powerpoint presentation.

The HIV pandemic has been the most devastating health and social justice crisis of the last three decades. HIV is severely compounded by stigma, poverty, discrimination, restricted access to care, and criminalization. For too long many in the Church have remained silent and not responded to people living with HIV with Jesus’ love or justice. This interactive workshop offers theological reflection, biblical, and practical tools to address HIV in your community through compassionate preaching, teaching, and service.

Racial Justice: For White People Who Want to Do Something

Michael Brown.

Eric Garner.

Tamir Rice.

Freddie Gray.

Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. Depayne Middleton-Doctor. Clementa Pinckney. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson.

Sandra Bland.

Samuel DuBose.

Friends, it’s been a heavy year and we’ve had much to grieve. Our sanctuaries and worshipping communities have held space for lamenting our loss, uncomfortable learnings about white supremacy, but unfortunately, devoted very little action to racial reconciliation. Many of us are trapped by white guilt and white fragility–paralyzed from acting by the fear of doing it wrong and revealing that though we desperately want to build God’s beloved community, our subconscious thoughts and actions are shaped by racial biases.

So instead, we work to educate ourselves about white privilege. We teach a Sunday School class on The New Jim Crow. However, at the end of the course–when the media frenzy surrounding the latest instance of police brutality against a person of color dies down–passions fizzle out and we put our work for racial reconciliation on hold until the next grave injustice garners our attention again.

Here is a proposal–hardly unique–that we hope will build accountability and momentum for moving past the white fragility where many of us get stuck. It’s simple: reverse the order. Instead of beginning with education and research with the hope of discerning how best to act, begin with the action to generate the energy needed to continue moving.

Act. Hold a prayer vigil. Collaborate with local racial justice groups in a parade or demonstration. Partner with a neighboring black church for a mission project and relationship building. Audit your church’s children’s library and add books until 50% of characters are represented as non-white. (Then move on to the adult library and add books until 50% of the authoring theologians are non-white.)

Reflect. Evaluate your action. Discern directions for what comes next. Grapple with addressing your own racial biases. Find the gaps in your education and follow your curiosity to begin learning more.

Educate. (We like to think we’re great at this!) Begin filling in those gaps. Research and lay the groundwork for your next action.

To help you get started, here are some resources for each phase:

ACTION: Do something concrete.

  • If you’ve ever thought, “If I weren’t so busy, I’d have time to do something about race,” Showing up for Racial Justice has action tool kits that conveniently lay out actions that you can take based on time commitment. If you have 2 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or more, SURJ has suggestion for how you can make the best use of your time do something.
  • For a more holistic approach, Laura Cheifetz’s blog post outlines eight concrete ways to address racism, from shifting your news source to supporting black businesses to hiring a consulting firm to partner with your congregation for training.

REFLECTION: Take some time to process and evaluate.

  • This NEXT Church resource runs through the basics of an IAF-style evaluation. In this instance, your “big picture” goals may have been “show solidarity and support” or “further develop relationships and foster understanding.”
  • Our blog topic in June 2015 was Contemplation and Social Justice–here is a list of all posts. Contributors from the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, Ltd. shared reflections on their experiences of race and the transformative power of contemplative practices. These authors model how to integrate faith and action with making sense of racial oppression. (Intimidated by the list? Try starting with For what shall I pray?)

EDUCATION: After doing something and reflecting on that experience, where does your curiosity lead you?

  • For the novice: Have a burning question about race? Ask a white person. This site is run by a group of experienced racial justice anti-oppression educators for peer-led discussion. While tempting, it isn’t fair to turn to our POC friends and colleagues and ask them to shoulder the burden of educating white folks by sharing their experiences of oppression. Is there a time and a place for meaningful sharing and discussion around racial justice? Absolutely. But do your research first. This is a great place to start.
  • For the group learner in need of structure: There is a free online class taking place in August. It’s an introductory course covering systematic racism, white privilege, racial bias, and being a good ally. Learn more and sign up here.
  • For the independent learner: In the wake of the massacre in Charleston, an academic twitter conversation (#CharlestonSyllabus) emerged for folks trying to make sense of the tragedy by studying its historical context. This is a list for voracious readers and historians that covers a wide range of topics from the specific context of race in Charleston — colonial times through reconstruction and the civil rights movement–to systematic white supremacy, and even how to talk about race with children. (And for those of you who would rather watch documentaries than read thick tomes, there is an similar film syllabus as well!)

What other resources for ACTION, REFLECTION, and EDUCATION would you add to our list? Let us know.

How to: Hold an IAF-style Evaluation

So you’ve finished your experimental worship service / high tension meeting / community event celebrating a new partnership. What happens next? For many, we think to ourselves, “That was interesting,” or “What’s next?” and continue on our way without reflecting more deeply. Industrial Areas Foundation founder Saul Alinksy calls out church leaders for leaving un-evaluated events as “a pile of undigested happenings.” By incorporating time for reflection and evaluation into our routine life, we are better able to learn from our experiences and add to our store of social knowledge. How do we do this?

  1. Immediately after the event, gather your community–folks who planned or led the event, participants, insiders and outsiders, etc. (Learn more about why it’s important to include a diverse group here.)
  2. Ask everyone for one word or phrase that describes how they are feeling. In a group of twenty people, you will have twenty different experiences of and responses to the same event. Hold everyone to one word or phrase (or less than 30 seconds.) The purpose of doing rounds in this way is to gauge the temperature of the room and encourage leaders to share honestly about their experience.
  3. Review your big picture goals or objectives for the event–were they met? (Ex: Was there an exchange of power? What did you do well? Where was the learning?)
  4. Check in about specific details–if you were to repeat this event, what logistical adjustments would you make based on today’s experience? (Were you adequately prepared? What research will you need to complete before moving forward?)
  5. Continue looking back and evaluating two weeks out, two months out, etc. to think about the event’s effectiveness over time.

For more guidance, check out this IAF resource.

Go forth and evaluate!

From the Files – Community Organizing, TBT Edition

filesHere are a few posts from the past NEXT blogs that are worth a re-read:

Andrew Foster Connors suggests that good stewardship requires more than better preaching and shares how their congregation has used discipline of organizing to create a relational stewardship campaign.

Jessica Tate explores how the organizing universal of Organize, Dis-organize, Re-organize, Repeat helped to give new life to the deacons’ ministry.

Patrick Daymond shares the power of relational ministry in this video from the 2013 NEXT National Gathering.

And if you haven’t yet looked at the community organizing bibliography Jeff Krehbiel compiled last year, here it is.

photo credit: nhighberg via photopin cc

Lunch for the Soul: Building Community and the Missional Church (webinar recording)

Thinking about how to serve your neighbors? Wondering how your church can become more missional? Pondering what it means to create meaningful spiritual community in this day and age? Join us for a conversation about Lunch for the Soul. Since 2006, every Wednesday at noon Lunch for the Soul has provided the day laborers in the community with a hot, nutritious meal and a Spanish worship service. The pastors from Trinity Presbyterian, Oakbrook Church, and Riverside Presbyterian  provide the spiritual food while teams of volunteers from Trinity and Riverside Presbyterian Churches prepare and provide the meals.  Anywhere from 40-180 people come weekly to be fed in spirit, in community and in body.
Listen to the audio recording here. Click here to see the accompanying slideshow.
Edwin Andrade born in Guatemala, grew up in LA, now co-pastor of Riverside Church in Sterling, VA
Rebecca Messman from southwest Virginia, served as a Young Adult Volunteer of the PCUSA in Guatemala, now Associate Pastor in Herndon, VA.
Together, they provide the pastoral leadership for Lunch for the Soul.

A Bibliography for Community Organizing

Relational organizing was a big theme at the 2013 National Gathering, particularly in the reflections by Patrick Daymond, which you can view here. Jeff Krehbiel, pastor of Church of the Pilgrims in Washington DC, a member of the NEXT Church Advisory Team, and the author of Reflecting with Scripture on Community Organizing, offers this bibliography of books and resources:

Community Organizing Bibliography

Resources from the PC(USA) on community organizing, including grants for training, can be found here.

Resources for Church Leaders:

This series of pamphlets from ACTA Publications, a publisher of community organizing resources, is especially helpful for training congregational leaders:
Effective Organizing for Congregational Renewal” by Michael Gecan
Reflecting with Scripture on Community Organizing,” by Jeffrey K. Krehbiel
“The Power of Relational Action,” by Ed Chambers

Narratives on Broad-Based Organizing:

A Community Organizer’s Tale: People and Power in San Francisco, Mike Miller, Heyday books, 2009 A personal narrative by a veteran organizer.
Blessed Are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America,Jeffrey Stout, 2010 A compelling narrative on the impact of broad-based organizing on American democratic life, focusing on the work of the IAF in the southwestern United States.
Going Public: An Organizer’s Guide to Citizen Action, Mike Gecan, 2004 The best beginning book on the principals and practices of community organizing.  Filled with anecdotes particularly of organizing in New York City.
Stoking the Fire of Democracy: Our Generation’s Introduction to Grassroots Organizing, Stephen N. Smith, 2009 An honest memoir of a young adult’s journey into community organizing along with guidance for organizing.  

Narratives on Congregations Involved in Community Organizing:

Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx, Heidi Neumark, 2003 A stellar memoire and book on pastoral-ministry-as-organizing.  Should be required reading for American seminarians.
Upon This Rock. The Miracles of a Black Church, Samuel G. Freedman, 1994 An admiring biography of the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood and the St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York.  Good introduction to a church powerfully grounded in its African heritage.  

Books on Organizing Principles, Theory and Theology:

Building a People of Power: Equipping Churches to Transform Their Communities, Robert C. Linthicum, Authentic, 2005. An exploration of organizing principles and strategies from the evangelical tradition.
Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing, Dennis Jacobsen, Fortress Press, 2001 An introduction to the theology of congregation-based community organizing.
Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice,  Ed Chambers, 2003. Summarizes the theories of community organizing in the modern IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation).
Yours The Power: Faith-Based Organizing in the USA, Katie Day, Esther McIntosh, William Storrar, ed. 2013. Critical essays on the current field of faith-based organizing from academics, theologians, and practitioners.  

Books by and about Saul Alinsky, the pioneer of modern community organizing:

Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky by Nicholas Von Hoffman, Nations Books, 2010
Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky, Vintage Books, 1989, 1971 First Published
Reveille for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky, Vintage Books 1989, 1946 First Published