Get Involved in Serving Your Community
The vitality of ecumenical and interfaith work takes place in the entire church. Synods, regions, congregations—and you--play a crucial role in how we live out our unity as God’s people. Your congregation can help foster understanding and cooperation, especially in your local community, by finding ways you can work with other faith groups for the sake of your neighborhood—and for the sake of the world.
Photo by Kathleen Cameron
How to get started:
If your congregation hasn’t yet experienced the enrichment of working cooperatively with other congregations, or if you haven’t done this work in a while, here are practical ways to get started:
Look around your community: Is there something you can do alone that you can do better together? Take a walk and see what’s going on around you.
- a neighborhood that needs an after-school program for kids;
- a park that needs to be cleaned up;
- a food pantry that needs an influx of provisions;
- a one-time project such as a used-book fair to raise money for a social services organization and to help promote reading;
- a battered women’s or homeless shelter that needs financial support;
Building trust and understanding
Creating community awareness
A chance to learn about your neighbors
And if there is ever a crisis or disaster in your community, you will have established relationships to respond quickly.
Ask around. Think about how you can work together with other congregations or faith groups to help.
Additional Suggessions/Ideas are...
- Invite other pastors from nearby congregations to have coffee with the express purpose of talking about this need. Start with full communion partner churches (Presbyterian, Episcopal, Moravian, Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ) but don’t be limited by these.
- Pull together key people from the congregations who might have energy around a specific issue. Form a short-term inter-congregational committee to plan the project or event.
- Assign someone to promote the project or event in each congregation and someone to contact the local media—community newspapers and television stations. Take photos and write about the event so that you can tell the larger community about it. From the point of view of the media, this is a “feel good” story—churches working together to meet a need.
- The project or event can be simple and doesn’t have to be long-term (such as a used-book fair or clean-up day).
- Whatever you do, make it meaningful and even fun—work and worship, with a time for social interaction. Ask a local grocery store to donate food (like ice cream or hot dogs) for a social gathering as part of the event. Make the point that it’s not just for one congregation, but about two or more working together.
- Make the project as inter-generational as possible. Include youth and retired people.
- Include an educational component such as an adult forum or youth program, if possible, so that congregation members can learn more about the other faith-group’s tradition and beliefs.
Let us know! Tell the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations about it. Send us an e-mail. Send along digital photos if you have them. This may provide opportunities to share your story with the wider church to help serve as a model for other congregations.
Submit information about your ecumenical event to the Faith and Wisdom database so that others in your area can learn about it.
After the project or event, pull together participants to evaluate it. What went right? What would you do differently next time? Are there other projects the groups would want to do together in the future?