Bethel UMC is in west San Antonio and is over 100 years old. A team from the church just completed the core training for Transformational Communities of Praxis (TCOP). And, they hosted their first community convening in early October using some of their new skills!
Twenty-five people attended the Community Connections Convening including church members, many of whom live in the neighborhoods surrounding the church, and three community partners (First Baptist Church, Habitat for Humanity, and Community Workers Association). Cedric Gilmore, Bethel Lay Leader and TCOP team member, noted that 75% of the church members who attended were not the usual church-leaders who participate in guiding the church. Most people are familiar with the 80-20 rule that says that 80% of the work is usually done by 20% of the members. Cedric enthusiastically noted that the 80% showed up because they were inspired by the vision of something that would go beyond the status quo, something that would reach into the neighborhood – their neighborhood!
After six hours together learning about each other’s gifts, learning about shalom, and naming the strengths of the community, there was still energy in the room as those in attendance put their names next to the goals that they had helped to craft and that they would help to pursue.
“Because of TCOP, we are better equipped to connect to the community,”
said Cedric. And, the first Community Connections Convening reflected that.
The skills that TCOP provided helped Cedric and the TCOP team structure an interactive meeting and an atmosphere where everyone, including community partners, was engaged in creating a shared vision for the community and the goals to get there.
“This was the first time we have had this much conversation with these three partners that are right outside our doors. We learned that these community partners have assets that we had no idea existed,” Cedric shared with the Visioning Team of the Rio Texas Conference.
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is a framework for engaging and strengthening communities that is foundational to the TCOP program. ABCD invites congregations to shift their focus from looking at only the needs and problems in the community, which can often overwhelm us to the point of inaction, to identifying, celebrating and connecting the gifts, resources and assets of a community in ways that strengthen their impact. An ABCD approach believes that God is already at work in the neighborhood, waiting for us to join in. Discovering resources and partners that Bethel had not previously seen is one of the ways they are learning what God is already doing and how they might participate.
Bethel does not just want to be a place for Sunday mornings. The TCOP training and the support of the TCOP Design Team is helping Bethel to move beyond the walls of the church and beyond Sunday mornings.
“We want to be known as great neighbors to this community – phenomenal neighbors – built on relationships and trust,” said Cedric.
Bethel is well on their way to being phenomenal neighbors!
Note: This article was reprinted from Nov 27, 2019 and the Transformational Communities of Praxis (TCOP) website. TCOP is an initiative of the Rio Texas Conference of the UMC. Amy Moritz has been a consultant to the team since 2017 providing program design, evaluation, training and coaching.