A Busy Time for Faith-based
Since Secretary Cuomos creation of the
Center for Community and InterfaithFaith
Partnerships, faith-based organizations have played an increasingly
significant role in community empowerment. However, engaging the religious
community in government programs still poses a challenge.
In Michigan, Grand Rapids Community Builder Fred Washington, a Methodist
minister and former president of a Community Housing Development Agency,
anticipated the challenge. "Getting faith-based groups together was
a challenge for several reasons, said Washington. "Many congregations
and organizations have never participated in community development conversations
with a federal agency--many groups thought they were too small to play a
role in community development at the level of HUD programs, and we as Community
Builders had to win their confidence."
HUDs Flint, Detroit and Grand Rapids field offices joined efforts and convened over 150 members of
faith-based organizations throughout South and Central Michigan in Grand
Rapids on June 3rd. The Michigan faith-based conference focused on how faith-based
organizations and congregations can be more involved in federally-funded
programs to address the economic and housing needs throughout the state.
The teamwork that led to the conference also included the assistance of
the following private sponsors: Michigan Housing Trust Fund, Michigan National
Bank, Old Kent Bank, and Michigan State University.
"Many people said that outside of Detroit conferences, this was
the first time that representatives from different congregations in Western
Michigan had come together for a single event," said Washington. "Our
outreach even included working with hymnal publishers and funeral homes
to identify contacts for small congregations to ensure that they were invited
to the table."
Keynote speakers from private organizations highlighted effective models
for economic development through faith-based organizations and urged churches
and other faith-based groups to play a more aggressive and creative role
in housing and economic development in their respective communities. Workshops
were held on a variety of topics that included economic development, purchasing
HUD-owned properties, and accessing programs to provide care for the homeless,
and victims of substance abuse.
"A door has been opened," said Grand Rapids Senior Community
Builder Lou Berra. "Our next step as Community Builders is to lead
all those to the table who choose to walk through that door."
Back east, the Delaware State Office sponsored a meeting for Community Builders in the Mid-Atlantic
region in late June. A dozen Community Builders and staff from HUDs
Center for Community and Interfaith Partnerships spent the day working together
to share faith-based outreach strategies and best practices while also identifying
regional faith-based objectives.
"The importance of integrating congregations and non-profit organizations
with federal, state and local government programs, as well as the private
sector, is an important role for Community Builders," said Senior Community
Builder Diane Lello of the Delaware State Office. "Since many of these
organizations share resources across state lines, the Community Builders
are planning a FY2000 Regional Faith-based Organization Business and Operating
Plan and a Delmarva Penninsula Rural Conference."