Seminary students of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific saw the power of story in action when they witnessed an assembly organized by the Marin Organizing Committee as part of the curriculum of a 5-day training. Said Portia Hopkins, a first year student in the MDiv program, “There was an enormous amount of power in the way they gathered people into circles and encouraged them to share their stories,” she said. The elected leaders who attended were visibly moved by the stories, says Hopkins, as was she.
Rev. Rafael Pereira of the Diocese of Nevada, a student in that diocese’s local formation program, said the event had biblical meaning. “The action at San Rafael was exactly living out the Gospel when Jesus fed the 5,000. It was a rainy day...and I could compare my feelings with the disciples, when they questioned Jesus. I thought that just a few people were going to show up due to the weather. When we got there and saw the large crowd, we became one community working together for justice and the needs of our brothers and sisters, for the common good."
Twenty-five parents, teachers, church members and school staff walked the North Elementary attendance area this past Saturday in Brighton and spoke with dozens of parents in the community. The walk was organized by the Colorado IAF in partnership with the Brighton Education Association and Northern Hills Church in Brighton.
The purpose of the walk was to strengthen relationships between the school and the community, increase parental engagement and, ultimately, make North Elementary the best it can be!
Southern Arizona leaders joined the Catholic Diocese of Tucson and Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization for a 3-day leadership development training conducted in Spanish with the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). The training was co-sponsored by the Interfaith Education Fund.
[In photo, Fr. Viliulfo Valderrama and organizer Ana Chavarin kick off training session.]
As part of a larger leadership development effort in the Northeast San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, the Southern California Education Fund is working with potential leaders at Roscoe Elementary School, educating them about Alliance School methods and practices to help them strengthen their institutional capacity.
One Sunday, over 60 people from current and potential Marin Organizing Committee institutions, that the Bay Area Organizing Committee (BAOC) trains, gathered for a research action around housing - and the effects of the housing crisis on children's education. There were stories of new mothers evicted for no reason within a week of giving birth, and school districts having difficulty hiring and retaining teachers because of the high cost of living.
Linda Jackson, trustee on the San Rafael School Board, and Mary Jane Burke, Marin Superintendent of Schools, both made commitments to help leaders get connected to other power institutions and key players in Marin.
Looking for a way to create a "tighter fit between the life of faith and public life," the Very Reverend W. Mark Richardson of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley turned to community organizers prepared the Interfaith Education Fund to help train its seminarians.
Says Rev. Susanna Singer, "Bishops were saying increasingly that community organizing is a good thing." The creation faith, she argues, is about God's vision of flourishing for humanity and the cosmos. "It means that the body of Christ, which is us now, has got to get out there now and be involved in the communities in which we live because that's where God's dream is going to come true."
"The intention is to train ordinary people both in giving them a conceptual framework for thinking about issues of power and self-interest and leadership as well as some of the practical skills of engaging people who are different than you out in the broader world," says Anna Eng, lead organizer for the Bay Area IAF.
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific not only offers the 6-day course each year in January, it participates as a member in the Bay Area IAF organization.
[In photo is the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson sitting in a class. Photo Credit: Episcopal News Service]
CDSP Prepares Seminarians for Public Life, Episcopal News Service
Public Ministry in Practice, Episcopal News Service
Two weeks after 60 institutional leaders of Working Together Jackson launched a house meeting campaign -- which included training on how to lead a small group conversation -- leaders held the first of six "Geographic House Meeting Nights." Hosted by Truevine Missionary Baptist Church, the conversations are designed to elicit stories that will form the basis for a local "Agenda for a Renewed City."
As part of a statewide effort by the Colorado Education Association, and in collaboration with the Colorado IAF, one dozen Commerce City teachers took to a nearby trailer park to directly ask parents how they can do their jobs better. Many of the answers were blunt. Teachers are working to rebuild trust in this community in order to reshape the schools to better address the interests and needs of the mostly low-income Latinos who live there.
Said Barb McDowell, "The only way we can make a difference with the families in our district is if we get involved."
[Photo Credit: Nicholas Garcia, Chalkbeat]Read more
Over 240 Omaha leaders trained by the Institute for Public Leadership, plus allies from the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and other faith traditions, packed Augustana Lutheran Church for an Interfaith Solidarity Service.
The evening featured song, reflection and prayer from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith communities and included statements of solidarity and a commitment to nonviolence.
As the most ethnically diverse parish in the Diocese of Fort Worth, St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Arlington, Texas holds mass in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Twi. Over the last two years, in partnership with the Dallas Area Sponsoring Committee, the parish has undergone a deeply embedded congregational development process involving 3,000 parishioners – 600 of which participated in small group conversational encounters held by 80 ministry leaders.
Subsequent congregational development meetings integrated Catholic Social Teaching into training sessions on leadership, stewardship and responsibility to the common good. These meetings consistently drew 200 at a time. As a result, new leaders soon emerged for the pastoral council and other parish ministries. There is now clarity about the need to build a stronger parish community and attend to the challenges families face.
In November, after leaders heard weekly “horror stories” about the debilitating effect of predatory loans on families, St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish stood with the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly launch a campaign calling on the City of Arlington to better regulate payday and title loan lending.