The Peace with Justice Sunday (PWJS) offering, to be received churchwide on or near May 31, helped an Eastern PA Conference laymember gain valuable leadership skills in advocating for social change.
Wilhelmina Young, a leader at Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia, attended a six-day, intensive community-organizing and leadership development training event in 2014, thanks to Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER). The faith-based, grassroots social change organization used the $2,000 it received from the PWJS offering to send her and to help 50 other persons attend two days of training on Race, Faith and Power in January.
“The purpose of sending POWER lay members to these trainings,” said David Koppisch who directs POWER’s operations, “was to build their capacity to help educate and mobilize their peers in their respective congregations, United Methodist and others.” The hope is that attendees would participate “more fully and more effectively in POWER’s campaigns to promote a stronger living wage standard for Philadelphia workers and to promote a more just formula for distributing state funds for public school children in Pennsylvania.”
Young, he said, is active both in her local congregation and in POWER. She told Koppisch that while she had more than 20 years of experience in community work and activism, the intensive training deepened her understanding of the methods and principles of this particular model of faith-based community organizing.
“This deeper understanding,” he added, “enabled her to articulate more confidently to her peers within her congregation why POWER does what it does to engage community members and to be a prophetic witness in the public sphere. She felt more empowered to explain why we constructed the campaigns for living wages and full, fair funding for public schools the way we did.”
Young’s confidence as a leader grew as well. Being treated like a leader at the national training surprised her at first. She said she did not consider herself a leader, but rather a “lowly member.” However, Young began to “own” that label and embrace her role when she returned to her city, congregation and organization.
She helped lead Arch Street UMC’s nonpartisan voter outreach as part of POWER’s citywide effort to increase voting participation among low-income, minority voters. “She also played a lead role in meetings with POWER funders as well as public officials,” Koppisch said, “where we advocated for increased wages and full funding for public schools.
“The training gave her the increased confidence to do so. She would not have been able to attend that training were it not for the financial support from the United Methodist Peace with Justice grant.”
POWER will continue raising funds to send more laity to seminars in order to build leadership capacity. “Those who attended the trainings with United Methodist Church support,” Koppisch said, “will become spokespersons for the value of such trainings and will help recruit peers to attend future trainings.”
Article adapted from the POWER grant report by David Koppisch
Peace with Justice Sunday, one of six United Methodist churchwide Special Sundays with offerings, enables United Methodists globally to teach, learn and work for peace and justice through a broad array of diverse programs. The special offering is shared by the General Board of Church and Society and annual conferences like ours to benefit ministries promoting peace and justice.
The Rev. Carolene Brubaker [email@example.com] coordinates Peace and Justice Ministries for the Eastern PA Conference. Nearly $8,000 was received from 60 local congregations in 2014. Three ministries received funds from the one-half portion of the offering our conference retained, which is administered by the conference Church and Society Work Team:
When you give generously on Peace with Justice Sunday, which may be observed on any chosen Sunday of the year, you give The United Methodist Church a voice in advocating for global peace and justice. Give now.