This past Sunday Paul Wong and I went to a very interesting meeting of Newton Episcopal Church wardens and clergy. Paul was attending in David’s place, as David was out of town, and Margaret was en route to a conference in Colorado. Churches represented at this meeting were Messiah, St Mark’s, St Paul’s, Trinity and of course Grace.
I want to let you know what we discussed--the question of whether Newton churches might be interested in working together on a Mission Hub, and what that would involve.
To start with some background, one initiative of Together Now, the Diocesan campaign we participated in during Lent, is the establishment of as many as six “Mission Hubs” over the next five years. Mission Hubs are defined as regional partnerships among congregations (at least three). Working together, individual churches’ missions might be extended. The aim is to identify unmet needs in the community and to work collaboratively with other groups and agencies to meet these needs. A first step will be to meet with community leaders, perhaps the mayor and the city’s social worker, for example, to learn what they see as unmet needs. One need already highlighted is the many people who have housing issues and need help filling out complex housing applications.
Mission Hubs are meant to be outward facing. There was a lively discussion at the meeting with many possible areas we could focus on: hidden hunger; violence, including domestic violence; poverty; housing; the environment, “caring for God’s creation”. All of these problems are problems in Newton. In fact, a current report from the Brookings Institute says that more poor people now live in the suburbs than in urban areas, and that suburban cities are ill equipped to handle the surge.
Mission Hub grants can range from $250,000 ($50,000 annually for five years) to as much as $1,250,000 ($500,000 annually for five years). When the grant comes to an end the Mission Hub must be sustainable (able to carry on without outside support).
Paul and I, along with everyone else present, feel that we all want to be involved in working together toward the development of a Mission Hub. (Working together at this point does not commit us to participating if Grace Church decides against it.) The next step is to develop a drafting team of two members from each participating parish to work on discerning the scope and substance of such a Mission Hub, and then putting together a proposal to the Diocese. The deadline for applications is September 1, so this team would need to work intensively for probably six weeks, starting at the beginning of June, to allow time for vestry and parish approval before submission of the proposal.
To me, this sounds exciting, and a chance to work together with some of the other parishes on some of the mostly hidden needs in our city, but also a bit daunting. What do you all think? Are you interested in helping to get this project started? Please let me know!
Carolyn Sprich (617.244.2071,firstname.lastname@example.org)