By Fitzgerald Lovett
“Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you, for in it’s shalom, you will find your shalom.” — Jeremiah 29:7
Communities of Shalom, a community development initiative of the United Methodist Church, was a response to the conditions and aftermath of the Los Angeles rioting in 1992. The Shalom Movement today addresses four areas: Community economic development, eradicating racism and classism, congregational spiritual development and health and healing.
The Communities of Shalom program shares a vision of revitalized neighborhoods and engaged congregations together with urban, rural and suburban partners that seek renewal. Communities of Shalom are built on four principles:
• Faith in action
• Asset-based community development
• Systemic change
With these principles in mind, groups are trained to recognize neighborhoods' strengths. Communities then develop a plan that will encourage growth and development. Communities of Shalom commit to work together as a partnership of congregations, nonprofit organizations, community members and other groups who are vested in building strong and diverse relationships. Communities of Shalom also recognize that there are underlying policies and systems that block people from creating equitable relationships. Through community organizing strategies, neighbors can work together to seek change.
Communities of Shalom is coordinated through Drew University and in consultation with the National Shalom Committee. The General Board of Global Ministries had administered the Shalom Initiative for 15 years in collaboration with the National Shalom Committee. Global Ministries will continue as a partner, providing significant funding for the next two years. The new partnership with Drew University was announced jointly by Bishop John School of Washington, D.C,. chair of the National Shalom Committee, and Dr. Maxine Beach, vice president and dean of Drew Theological School. The new arrangement became effect in January.
The Mississippi Conference is now accepting applications from churches that wish to start or reactivate a Community of Shalom. You may receive an application by contacting me at 662-354-0515, ext. 29. The deadline to apply is July 30.
Lovett serves as pastor of Middlebrook United Methodist Church and serves on the conference staff working with Strengthening the Black Church and racial reconciliation.