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Presbyterian churches invited to learn about grassroots organizing in Nov. 16 webinar

Campaign leader from Washington Interfaith Network to share tips about ‘relationship-based power building’ through Congregation-Based Community Organizing

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Alison Dunn-Almaguer (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) will host a webinar on Congregation-Based Community Organizing (CBCO) at noon Eastern Time on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to help energize congregations interested in championing issues within their communities, such as affordable housing.

The webinar will be led by the Rev. Alison Dunn-Almaguer, senior organizer for the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), a PHP partner that has been working for the last 25 years to organize faith institutions, nonprofits and unions to collaborate in order to increase their power and create local change.

The work that Dunn-Almaguer and WIN do on issues, such as affordable housing preservation and Black Equity Through Homeownership (BETH), is a prime example of CBCO, a grassroots strategy for rebuilding communities, revitalizing congregations and developing individuals into effective leaders and change agents, according to PHP.

“Presbyterians who want to be relevant to the needs and interests of people in their communities can tune in to the session and begin learning modern-day community organizing and relationship-based power building from a highly skilled senior organizer,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, National Hunger Associate for PHP.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has embraced CBCO for many years and currently lifts it up as a way to live out the Matthew 25 invitation, which encourages churches to move outside of the walls of the church and into communities in order to eradicate poverty, dismantle racism and build congregational vitality. Matthew 25 also targets intersectional issues, such as climate change, militarism and gender justice topics, including heteropatriarchy.

PHP typically provides about $100,000 a year to Congregation Based Community Organizations, which serve as vehicles “for churches, schools, unions and non-profit organizations to carry their concerns and values into public life, as they create policy and access funds to improve their communities,” PHP notes on a web page devoted to CBCOs.

“Presbyterian churches around the country have joined these CBCO coalitions to address the systems that perpetuate poverty and homelessness,” Kang Bartlett stated in a video on CBCOs and affordable housing. “… If your city has a CBCO, you can join it, and if not, you can support CBCOs around the country by donating to the Presbyterian Hunger Program and One Great Hour of Sharing.”

Kang Bartlett sees similarities between Congregation-Based Community Organizing and how Jesus interacted with people during his time on Earth.

Andrew Kang Bartlett (Photo by Rich Copley)

“Jesus was a community organizer,” Kang Bartlett said. “He sat down with people to hear their stories, built relationships with those most oppressed by institutions and systems, strategized around important social issues, and called people to action.”

Dunn-Almaguer leads WIN in the development of effective organizing and advocacy strategies, helping to build international coalitions and lead external campaigns, according to PHP. Her work also includes training 50 diverse member organizations from throughout the D.C. area on relational power building and how to engage in the public work of social justice through democracy.

To register for the workshop, “Congregation-Based Community Organizing: The Why, What and How in 60 Minutes!” go here. It will be livestreamed on PHP’s Facebook page. A more in-depth training session is planned for spring 2023.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Its work is made possible through your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

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