The Faith and Leadership blog from Duke Divinity School is showcasing some congregational initiatives to work with public institutions for the common good of the communities in which they live. They describe a recent shooting incident in which pastoral support was offered at a police crime scene by a member of the Sacramento Police Department’s “Cops & Clergy” program. The city website posts,
The Mission of the Sacramento Police Department’s Cops & Clergy program is to unite members of the faith-based community with the Sacramento Police Department to foster relationships, build community trust and reduce gang violence through outreach and intervention.
In the recent incident, the pastor called as back-up was able to defuse tensions with prayer and an understanding of both sides of the caution tape.
The Rev. Anthony Sadler, of Shiloh Baptist Church, explains how this understanding comes from attending not only when an incident arises, but with training by the police force, and visits to schools, jails, and other community venues to get to know those most at risk for gang involvement and violence. It is a fine line to tread.
This coziness with law enforcement comes with trade-offs. When demonstrators rallied against police violence and blocked traffic earlier this year, Sadler arrived on scene with other pastors and officers. But the protestors wouldn’t talk to the clergy, he said, because they were “associating us with law enforcement.”
In Boston, the Ten-Point Coalition has a less formalized relationship with the police department, but still is able to bridge that divide when necessary.
Early this spring, Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury hosted a public meeting in a tense time after Boston police killed an African-American man. Prior to the meeting, police let pastors see a video of the incident, in which an officer was shot in the face, leaving him critically injured. When the community gathered to hear details, police were present, but pastors did the talking. They explained what the suspect had done to provoke the police response.
Not only with the police, but in areas of healthcare and public education, congregations are increasingly partnering with public institutions to further the welfare of the communities that they serve, the story finds.
“Churches are very consciously looking at the work of the state and trying to align their ministries to best serve people,” said Arthur Farnsley, the associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis…
“Partnering with the state is not without some risk,” Farnsley said, adding that critics are apt to say the church’s mission has been co-opted by the state. But he says churches are likely evolving to embrace a new role as liaison between big, public institutions and individuals who need services.
“That the church would find some of its ministry to people is in trying to humanize those interactions — that makes real good sense to me,” he said.
Read the whole story here, then share your examples of congregations working with public institutions to seek and serve Christ in all persons in the comments section below.
Posted by Rosalind Hughes