Sacred Places Winter 2021 - Page 10

would help recruit congregations or parishes and assist with general support throughout the program .
To tell the story of New Dollars ’ birth and growth , Partners reconnected with some of those who were there at the beginning . These facilitators , conveners , and alumni told us of the immense and immeasurable impact that the training had on them personally , on the participating congregations , and on the congregation ’ s neighborhoods as they applied the learnings in their communities . Common threads ran through each of these conversations , describing a unique and powerful learning experience .
Sacred Places are Assets , not Liabilities
One of the most important ideas that guides Partners ’ work is that sacred places have immense value to their congregations , as well as a larger economic and social value . Unfortunately , the work of maintaining the physical structures can seem to overshadow its worth . Congregations begin to think of the buildings as inescapable burdens that prevent them from serving their members and surrounding community by demanding so much of their energy and finances . One of the most poignant experiences of the New Dollars / New Partners training was a paradigm shift in the thinking of program participants . “ Many of these congregations had been thinking about their assets as albatrosses , especially the building ,” says The Rev . Michael Mather . “ What the whole process of the training seemed to do was help them realize the real value about what they had in hand .”
Mather and several other trainers , including Luther Snow and Mike Green , were among the early facilitators of asset-mapping , a key component of the New Dollars / New Partners training . Asset-mapping is a methodology that
On day two of training , members of University Lutheran in Harvard Square learned about the Asset Based Community Development model and completed a number of asset-mapping exercises to identify the gifts , talents , and resources of their own members and congregation . Here , a member is sharing the ideas her group has created by connecting assets to create new possibilities for growing and strengthening their programming and outreach . Photo : Joshua Castaño comes out of Asset Based Community Development , an approach that affirms a community ’ s strengths and capacities rather than focusing on what it lacks . Mather saw the profound effect that asset-mapping had on congregations and how it helped them engage with their communities . “[ Asset mapping ] gives people a way to build on what they have instead of what they don ’ t ,” Mather said . “ I often heard back from folks at the training that they came in feeling bereft , and they walked away knowing that they weren ’ t . It gave them a new world and new eyes to see it with .” Instead of focusing on what the congregation may have lacked — endowments , preservation knowledge , sizeable membership — participants were encouraged to inventory all the resources that they had . They found an abundance of assets that could be leveraged and connected to both maximize their service to the community and grow the support needed to maintain their buildings .
“[ Asset-Mapping ] was the ‘ Eureka !’ moment for me ,” said The Rev . James Moody , pastor of Quinn Chapel A . M . E . Church in Chicago . “ This was a way to articulate what I always knew to be true , but had trouble describing … that opportunity rests in the problems you encounter .” Rev . Moody and his wife , Corliss , participated in the first cohort of New Dollars / New Partners in Chicago . Quinn Chapel , the first African American church established in Chicago , was struggling . The congregation was small , the building in a severe state of disrepair , and the church was in one of the most underserved communities in the city . The asset-mapping activity helped Quinn Chapel see the opportunities in its neighborhood instead of focusing just on its challenges . The congregation began inviting children who lived in nearby subsidized public housing to its annual retreat and picnic in Michigan , during which kids discovered an interest in African drumming . One of Quinn Chapel ’ s members told Moody that he would be willing to teach the neighborhood kids for free ; Quinn Chapel bought a set of djembe drums and a drumming ministry was born . Recalling the abundance that emerged , Corliss Moody said “ I can ’ t remember all of the things we did that came out of asset-mapping — it restored the building , the congregation , and the community all at the same time , and that ’ s the goal .”
Congregations don ’ t have to reinvent the wheel
The committees and other groups that oversee the maintenance of a congregation ’ s building are often made up of volunteers with a variety of professional backgrounds , but very few include an architect or a structural engineer . Furthermore , building preservation and maintenance are not included in the curricula of most seminaries , but clergy are frequently asked to make judgment calls on capital projects . Thus , there was no question in Nancy Finegood ’ s mind that there was a need to train congregations in the preservation of sacred places . Finegood was serving as director of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network when she met Partners ’ founder and President Bob Jaeger at a conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation .
10 SACRED PLACES • WINTER 2021