P.O.W.E.R. Comes of Age

P.O.W.E.R. Comes of Age

P.O.W.E.R. – Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild has graduated to its next organizational stage.

Since the conversations which engendered this city-wide faith-based community organization began almost three years ago, the governing leadership has been predominantly clergy. When a Sponsoring Committee was formed in January 2010, it was made up of interested ministers and rabbis. Through the building phase of this new organization, all the institutional leadership and decision-making authority has been provided by these clergy leaders.

But clergy are too busy to count on as the only leaders of an organization trying to do as much as P.O.W.E.R. And the lay people of our churches and synagogues and mosques offer so much to add to our organization.

On September 25th, 2011, many of us from Old First joined thousands of others from congregations across this city at the historic Tindley Temple United Methiodist Church for P.O.W.E.R.’s founding assembly. And a new era began for the organization.

One of the major institutional developments after that Founding Assembly is the transfer of the oversight of P.O.W.E.R. from its earlier clergy stewards to YOU, through your designated representatives appointed to serve on the Board of Directors of P.O.W.E.R.

On January 9, 2012 at St. Malachy’s Parish in Philadelphia, P.O.W.E.R. formally seated its Board of Directors which is comprised of one representative, and one alternative representative, of each dues-paying congregation, chosen by that congregation. On January 29th, 2012, at Old First’s Annual Meeting, you, the members of Old First Reformed United Church of Christ, voted to affirm the one year appointment of Stirling Schwiebert and Mike Wass to represent Old First on the Board of Directors of P.O.W.E.R.

The Board of Directors functions in an oversight capacity to ensure that the financial and legal requirements are met by P.O.W.E.R. It oversees the administrative aspects of P.O.W.E.R. (fiduciary), and is responsible for oversight of the Executive Director and strategic visioning. It needs to be emphasized however that the Board of Directors will not be involved in strategic planning; this will be handled by other members of the POWER community, and these other members of the P.O.W.E.R. community is you.

One has to question how is “all the other stuff” going happen if this is “all” the Directors are doing? Old First should expect its Directors to be participatory and engaged in the strategic planning and execution of its campaigns, however each member of Old First is going to be invited and encouraged to join us in crafting and acting on a comprehensive vision for Philadelphia and to organize large numbers of people around a public policy change agenda — centered on bringing down jobs for those for whom its hardest to find work — for the common good.

This will start through the organization of our own Local Organizing Committee (LOC) here at Old First and the designation of LOC co-chairs. Any congregational member of Old First is encouraged to participate in our LOC. Our first meeting of people interested in the creation of our Old First LOC will take place this coming Thursday, February 9. If you would like to join us, please speak to Stirling Schwiebert, Mike Waas or the pastor.

It will be the responsibility of the LOC to identify local problems, research the issues and advocate specific solutions. LOC members will have a responsibility to listen to individuals in our congregation and our community to hear their concerns and invite participation. The LOC members will be challenged to continually and purposefully listen to the concerns and ideas of our congregants and neighbors through individual one-on-one meetings, house meetings and listening campaigns, to ensure that action and issue campaigns are rooted in the pain and stories of real people, especially those who have traditionally been on the margins of power.

The strategic planning and execution of P.O.W.E.R. campaigns will be achieved through the following organizational structure:
There will be:

LEADERSHIP ASSEMBLIES: Quarterly gatherings of Member Congregations (open to all members of Member Congregations) Discussion of local campaigns (here at Old First), cluster campaigns (in collaboration with other Center City congregations), and federated campaigns (in collaboration with all congregations of P.O.W.E.R.).

o   A primary responsibility of co-chairs and members of the Old First LOC is to serve as liaisons to other congregations and the broader organization.

Leadership Assemblies are not simply “feedback sessions”: but deciding what directions we are taking with campaigns. P.O.W.E.R. staff has the responsibility to organize these Assemblies, with Co- Chairs of LOCs of each member congregation.
AD-HOC STRATEGY TEAMS: Temporary teams assembled for a particular campaign. Made up of lay leaders, clergy (who can also be a Director of the board): Members are appointed by the Executive Director or the Organizer. The Ad-Hoc Strategy Teams are responsible for developing strategies that are presented at Leadership Assemblies and voted on by Member Congregations.

P.O.W.E.R. uses our belief in God’s goodness and compassion for the suffering to organize and empower the people of Philadelphia to live and work together so that God’s presence is known on every block, that people work together to transform the conditions of their neighborhood, and that life flourishes for all. You are being invited to join us in the pursuit and realization of this mission of P.O.W.E.R.

Stirling Schwiebert