P.O.W.E.R. Engages Congregations in Community Development

On Sunday, January 30th, a group of Old Firsters – Michael, Billi, Mindy, Trixie, Ed, Beth, Stirling, Renaldo, Jo, Bobbie, Esther and three friends of Renaldo’s from Penn (Reuben, Tony and Appoline) – trekked to Northeast Philly to attend a 3 hour meeting, attended by 214 people from 26 congregations, of Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (P.O.W.E.R: An Interfaith Movement).

P.O.W.E.R. originated in 2009 to help congregations of different faiths move beyond  providing short-term immediate charity to helping  the systems and institutions in their communities better meet these needs over the long term. (For more information about faith based community development, check out PICO National Network, which has been assisting POWER.)

Most recently POWER has focused on identifying the issues facing Philadelphia’s faith communities, in part through “1 on 1’s” (basically brief conversations with community members designed to elicit their specific concerns) conducted by its members, including a significant number done by Michael Caine.

At Sunday’s meeting, seven primary areas of interest emerged, in the following order of priority:

  1. public safety and criminal justice;
  2. jobs and poverty issues;
  3. education and youth opportunities;
  4. housing and land issues;
  5. healthcare and wellness;
  6. older adult issues; and
  7. immigration and services for immigrants.

Based on this list, five Research Teams were created:

  • Education;
  • Public Safety;
  • Housing and Land Use;
  • Jobs;
  • Health Care/Older Adults.

Meeting attendees broke into small groups that will become Research Teams whose purpose is to research how the systems delivering these services are supposed to operate, how they actually operate, how they are funded, how they should ideally operate, who has the power to change these systems and what is in the self-interest of those in power. Old Firsters chose to attend three different groups:  Education, Jobs and Health.

Over the next two months, the organization’s goals are (1) to conduct meetings of the Research Teams, (2) for members to continue the information gathering process through 1 on 1’s, and (3) for members to take the POWER message back to the congregations.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 27. 

– Esther Bernard