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SDOP to host forum on church and community relationship building

Churches can gain insight on how to form partnerships to fight poverty

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, coordinator of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People. (Photo by Rick Jones)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) will host a virtual discussion next month with New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways and a host of community leaders and clergy from around the country to help churches build authentic relationships to fight poverty.

Registration is open now for “The Struggle is Real! How the Church Can Understand Ways to Listen, Engage and Form Relationships with Communities to Eradicate Poverty.” The forum and dialogue session will take place via Zoom from 4 p.m. through 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Oct. 29.

It is being organized as the U.S. continues to grapple with the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to job losses, business closures, long lines at food distribution sites and other signs that many people still are having trouble making ends meet.

“The expression ‘the struggle is real’ has become profoundly true as businesses and ministries have to pivot due to the economic impact of COVID-19,” said the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, SDOP Coordinator.

For those churches that want to reach out to their communities to establish non-paternalistic relationships but aren’t quite sure how, the upcoming virtual event will be an interactive learning opportunity.

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, here’s a bunch of knowledgeable people talking on a panel,’” Johnson said. “It’s more about come and get some skills, come and bring your questions, come and get some ideas. Let this particular event be generative enough that you can come and say, ‘Hey, I never thought about that before.’”

Viewers will receive “how-to” advice from guests, such as Nkazi Sinandile, founder of New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways, an organization that helps girls and women receive training and support for economic self-sufficiency. She will be joined by these guests:

The chat is intended to help churches move away from neo-colonial ways of interacting with communities.

“Sometimes, we think as churches that we can do things for a population,” Johnson said. “We see that this has been a problematic paradigm that doesn’t work. It doesn’t bear fruit, and it certainly doesn’t create authentic relationships. It’s dependency.”

By coming to the event and listening to the stories of the guests, “people will be able to, I think, gain a better sense of how to go about doing these really difficult aspects of ministry,” Johnson said. “They’re not easy. That’s why we’re doing this.”

The Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle is pastor of Beechmont Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rich Copley)

The event also will help to familiarize people with SDOP and the kind of social and economic justice issues that it and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are involved in, said Margaret Mwale, Associate for Community Development and Constituent Relations for SDOP.

“It’s also a way, hopefully, for the average Presbyterian on the ground to see that, well, our national church may be in Louisville, but they’re not so far removed that we cannot reach out to them and ask, ‘How can we partner with you?’” she said.

To register for the event, go here.

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Its work is made possible by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.                         

Is your congregation seeking to partner with your community or has it already done so? If so, email Self-Development of People at to share your questions or ideas, so SDOP can in turn share them! Are you a member of a group of low-income people working on issues of importance to you and your community? Will working on those issues result in long-term, positive change? Are you in need of financial assistance?  Contact SDOP at (502) 569-5792 or go to SDOP would welcome talking with you and possibly hosting a community grant webinar for groups in your area.

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