Top photo: Highbridge Community Church, Bronx, NY – Pastor Cora Taitt
In 2020, Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded the seminary a one million dollar grant to fund Churches in Mission, a five-year project that aims to learn with and from congregations as they discern God’s movement in their neighborhoods.
In April, Churches in Mission kicked off a 15-month journey with a virtual training event. From a variety of contexts, traditions, and neighborhoods, seven congregations invited five team members to engage the process and attend the event. Their work begins with an ethnography-inspired listening and discovery process in their neighborhoods. Their goal is to more deeply hear, love, and care for their neighbors. They may also discover new local partnerships and ministry opportunities along the way.
At the April event, teams identified the boundaries of their neighborhoods; they received areas of exploration including transportation, school access, and local business; they practiced listening skills and conducted interviews. Each congregational team beautifully began the work of slowing down and seeing their neighborhood with new eyes.
The congregations participating in the Churches in Mission cohort are fostering curiosity around what it means to understand and appreciate the land from which they benefit. One congregation is seeing their neighborhood shift with the construction of 10,000 new apartments on their street. Another congregation recognizes that their neighborhood is becoming less accessible to lower income families. One church is curious about missed relational opportunities as their building houses two distinct worshipping communities comprised of members from different economic groups.
Faithfully engaging local mission will unfold uniquely in each of these contexts. These teams are on a journey to listen deeply, be abundantly grateful, and joyfully minister in the unique neighborhoods in which they dwell.