The Health of a Community

May 2, 2014

grace episcopalArticle from Sacred Places ENewsletter on Wednesday April 30, 2014
There are some stories that exemplify larger ideals, some events that embody larger notions. At Partners for Sacred Places, we sometimes deal with a particular organization, or group of organizations, that truly understands and embodies all that Partners itself does. Partners’ interactions with the Inter-Church Council and with the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE) in New Bedford, Massachusetts, demonstrate the very ideals Partners’ embraces.

Initially, WHALE approached Partners about assisting six churches in New Bedford and two additional churches outside of New Bedford. New Dollars/New Partners for Your Sacred Place is Partners’ signature program designed to develop a congregation’s’ ability to increase their circle of support. The eight churches in and near New Bedford initially participated in the first two modules of the program, which entails creating Case Statements that express who they are, what they have, what they do, where they’re headed, and then invite others to join them on the journey. During these first two training modules, church leaders are encouraged to present the church confidently as having an important history, but also to speak to the future of the church and congregation, identifying positives and then outlining needs.

This method of approaching and working with new congregations has worked for Partners for Sacred Places for many years, but some particular interactions are especially fruitful, such as in New Bedford. “New Bedford is important,” shared Alison Cornish, Partners’ Senior Director of Programs, “because, in a way, everything Partners stands for is coming together there.” Cornish also notes that, “These places affect the health of the entire community,” and the fact that the Inter-Church Council and WHALE are working together in New Bedford to create and save historic and faith-based sacred places bodes well for these communities. “When congregations are flourishing, their city is usually flourishing,” Cornish explained.

In New Bedford, these congregations are indeed dedicated to flourishing. They are especially open to the assistance Partners is offering, carefully inventorying their assets and looking for ways to maximize their impact through space matching. When organizations focus on their strengths instead of their problems, Partners is able to assist more successfully. As Cornish noted, “If ideas are supported by local entities, its possible we could have a larger impact.”

Partners works diligently to assist these organizations. According to Rev. Joshua D.M. Jinno of Kingston Baptist Church in Kingston, Massachusetts, “There is so much right with what Partners represents ethically, philosophically, theologically. Most importantly, Partners for Sacred Places represents a small but growing voice, raising awareness to the public value of ecclesiastical bodies and the work they do.”

In the coming months, Partners will continue to work with the eight churches in and around New Bedford to help them prosper through the New Dollars/New Partners program. Stay tuned for additional information on their progress!