As we prepare for a congregational meeting (called for after worship on Sept. 18 per Bob Schneider’s announcement for the Elders) to vote as a church whether or not we should become members of the emerging faith-based community organization, P.O.W.E.R. (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild), people are rightfully asking:
What does membership in P.O.W.E.R. entail?
What will the obligations and responsibilities of affiliation be?
What advantages will joining bring?
The attached Membership Agreement gives the basics which are just that… pretty basic!
P.O.W.E.R. commits to its member organizations to teach, train and lead them in:
1) how they can strengthen their individual faith communities;
2) how they can work together– across religious, racial and ethnic, class and geographic differences– for the betterment of the whole city; and
3) how to affect the political process and call stakeholders in our society to make real changes that improve our communities for all people.
P.O.W.E.R. offers a two-pronged approach: member congregations will be encouraged to work on both local issues as well as participate in city-wide campaigns.
As a participating congregation, Old First would commit to:
A) strengthening our community;
B) raising up leaders;
C) identifying real needs (all of which we are currently doing with one-on-ones);
D) participating with other congregations on research and change efforts (as individual leaders are doing now and a whole bunch of us will do on Sept. 25);
E) naming two leaders to represent Old First at P.O.W.E.R.’s board.
F) contributing each year 1/2 of 1% of our operating budget ($1,770 per the 2011 budget) to the work P.O.W.E.R. is doing together.
That ‘s the basics. But there is much more that could be said:..
P.O.W.E.R. is an organization of congregations– a diverse group of religious communities– both on spectrums of beliefs and membership demographics as well as on a map of this city. Currently, it’s Protestant and Catholic, Christian and Jewish, Black and White, and from neighborhoods fall the way to the extreme Northeast or the southwest (and in between and all around too!). P.O.W.E.R. is actively reaching out to include more of our city’s people– Muslim, Hindu, Hispanic, Asian and Immigrant people. To be effective and make a change in this city, P.O.W.E.R. need to be an unusual “political entity” — an inclusive organization well beyond the dividing lines that too often hold various communities at odds or in competition.
How wonderful that our various faiths can become the practical impetus and the glue for unity and social improvement.
P.O.W.E.R. congregations are recognizing that– despite various, different religious understandings that make us distinct– our different traditions leave us with a curiously common, basic visions of what a society should offer its people, even the least resident of our city deserves. For too long, religious communities have failed to stand up and stand together, to effectively work together for a world God so loves.
What is P.O.W.E.R.’s agenda? It’s is pretty basic… sounding sort of like one of those prophetic biblical lists of what God wants:
~ streets safe for everyone,
~ care for the sick,
~ homes that shelter people,
~ schools that educate our children, and
~ jobs that pay people so families can live.
P.O.W.E.R. congregations have already begun working together to push for real, concrete changes– because our different religious traditions remind us that God cares for all of us eternally, starting right here and now.
At it’s most recent meeting– bringing together all the research that has been conducted so far– P.O.W.E.R. decided that the needs it has identified as well as the political opportunities before our city mean that its city-wide strategies for the first couple of years will focus mostly on jobs and education.
That said, local congregations and groups of congregations will be working on other issues– public safety, healthcare access and housing– locally as their neighborhoods warrant.
If you have any questions or concerns about either P.O.W.E.R. or our decision-making process, please address them to Steve Wilhite or the pastor.
And look forward to brief presentations– more information on P.O.W.E.R.– in worship over the next few weeks. Also, the bulletin this Sunday and on Sept. 4 will include a hard copy of the membership agreement. The bulletin on Sept. 11 will include a copy of the language for the proposed resolution to be voted on at the meeting on the following Sunday. We will also have an Information Session about P.O.W.E.R. after worship on Sunday, Sept. 11.