11 Old Firsters, attending the June 5 P.O.W.E.R. (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild) Assembly, were impressed by this emerging faith-based community organization. At that meeting, they committed to bringing before Old First the reasons they believe its in our church’s interests to join the broad spectrum of the religious communities working together for the betterment of our city, particularly its most vulnerable citizens. The social issues that P.O.W.E.R. has begun to identify and focus on include: Jobs, Education, Housing, Public Safety and Healthcare.
On June 12, Alice Reyes, Margaret Rohdy, Marta Rose and Steve Wilhite, told an impromptu Adult Forum what they experienced at the P.O.W.E.R. Assembly, and why they were moved to feel the Old First needs to be involved. Below are summary statements from a few of them:
Margaret Rhody: “At the P.O.W.E.R. meeting on June 5, I saw what P.O.W.E.R. is and can be, a gathering of people of all faiths and “ages, tongues, and races” (though we do need to include Muslims). This alone is inspiring, but the message of the day was empowering. The organizational framework of P.O.W.E.R. is in place. The priority concerns of education, jobs, public safety, housing, and health care have been identified. Now it is time to grow this organization by asking congregations to make a commitment to be involved. Working through P.O.W.E.R., congregations and individuals will be able to make a difference beyond what each can do alone. Just showing up at a mass meeting sends a message — that is what the Founding Meeting on September 25 is about. P.O.W.E.R. wants and needs to be big, loud and, most of all, effective in changing Philadelphia for the better.
Alice Reyes: “I feel this organization has the potential accomplish several unique goals. First, it can help facilitate a city wide conversation around critical issues that affect all of us. Beyond having a conversation, it can then mobilize those involved to gain a better understanding of the issues and then help us access the power brokers in our city to move on them.”
Steve Wilhite: “I believe that participation in P.O.W.E.R. is consistent with Old First’s commitment to outreach and community service. By joining with diverse faith communities throughout the city in P.O.W.E.R., Old First can leverage its influence to advocate for meaningful change and progress in the city. Through this participation in a movement fueled by a spiritual. intellectual, and emotional commitment to social justice, Old First can further its revitalization process by giving new AND long-time members an exciting new opportunity to participate in community-based advocacy. Through these advocacy activities, members of the congregation will be able to mobilize friends and associates to join the Old First effort who might not be otherwise inclined to sample “church stuff.”
At the June 5 Assembly, the Old Firsters present also made three additional commitments:
1) to bring at least 40 people to the P.O.W.E.R Founding Assembly on Sunday, September 25. That meeting is expected to have more than 2,000 faithful Philadelphians in attendance.
2) to begin the process by which Old First can make a formal decision if it will join with faith communities from all across Philadelphia to become an advocate for a city that truly serves all of its residents.
3) To that end, their other commitment was to run an internal One-on-One campaign over the summer at Old First. One-on-Ones are the basic building blocks of community organizing. They will help people begin to understand community organizing better: identify the passion and political self-interests of leaders in our faith community; and strengthen our church, even as we build momentum for the September 25 P.O.W.E.R. Founding Assembly.
To kick-off our One-on-One campaign, we will host a training on Sunday, June 26, immediately after worship. Remember, worship is at 10 a.m. beginning June 19, so our training should begin about 11 and finish by shortly after noon). At the training, we will explain what a One-on-One is and how to conduct them. That hour or so session after worship will also give people a chance to practice doing a one-on-one, explain how and why they make a difference, and ask people to make a commitment to accomplishing a certain number of One-on-Ones over the summer.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to speak with any of the people named in this article.